How to Become Merciful

God commands us to show pity to others in need, and pardon to those who have offended us. But our hearts resist this order. We find it hard to feel others’ pain, and even harder to forgive their past misdeeds. If we dared to admit it, we would confess that we think that, somehow, they deserve what they are suffering, and certainly do not deserve our clemency. How, then, can we soften our hearts and unlock the storehouse of our love? First, we should consider our own condition. Are we any better than they, really? Could not the same troubles have befallen us? And have we not committed sins as serious as theirs – or even worse? One look at the righteous law of God should suffice to unmask our desperate condition in God’s eyes. We have not worshiped Him as God, or given Him thanks. We have sought happiness and “life” from created things and people rather than from our Creator. We have spurned His commands and not believed His promises. Nor have we treated others as we would want to be treated ourselves. Instead of love, lust, greed, envy, and even malice have ruled in our innermost thoughts. How seldom do we sacrifice for the good of those around us! How often do we criticize them and withhold affection from them! And yet, when we recognize our wrong-doing and return to God in sincere repentance and trust in Christ as the Lamb of God who died in our place, our heavenly Father receives us with open arms. He forgives our sins and cleanses us from the stain of guilt. He welcomes us into His fellowship with overflowing affection. He even supplies us with the Holy Spirit when we cry out for help. Just thinking about the way God constantly treats His needy but unworthy children will give us perspective. Looking at the way Jesus died for us, we shall not close up our hearts against others in need, even though – like us – they don’t deserve any relief. When we were helpless, God sent His Son as a sacrifice for us; when we were sinners, Christ died for us. One glance at the Cross of Jesus should be sufficient to melt our icy hearts and unleash our affections for others in difficulty. Pondering the price God paid to forgive us should prod us to extend mercy freely to those who have hurt us. “Therefore be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).