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Healing & Well-Being

Mercy: Christian Definition and Examples From the Bible

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Mercy is a very common concept in the Bible, but do we really know what this word means and how we can show it in our lives? 

We can turn to the scripture and look at examples from both God and Jesus Christ and their numerous acts of mercy. By observing their behavior and learning from their lessons, we can achieve a much better understanding of this word.

Once we understand the different ways this word can exude positivity, we can help improve the lives of others.

In this article, we’ll examine what mercy is, how it differs from God's grace, and some of the many examples of God's mercy in the Bible.

Definition of mercy

The definition of mercy in the English dictionary is a noun in action. Mercy means “a mission or act performed to alleviate the suffering of others.” The word is taken from the medieval Latin words “merced” and “merces,” which mean “price paid.”

In the Bible, mercy is used in reference to giving forgiveness or withholding punishment. The scripture particularly speaks of God's forgiveness, as well as the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. 

The word “mercy” is also popular in a legal context, such as when a judge shows lenience upon sentencing. This is called mercy of the court. When used in this context, the word is more synonymous with clemency and leniency. 

Other related words you'll find in a thesaurus include; grace, kindness, generosity, forgiveness, and compassion. The difference between these terms and mercy is that mercy is the action that is put into effect because of these feelings of compassion and kindness.

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God's greatest act of mercy

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Perhaps the most meaningful and memorable example of mercy in the Bible is when God showed us mercy by sacrificing His only son. Jesus Christ was crucified on the Cross to pay the price for our sins. Through his death, we can repent for our sins and ask for forgiveness.

This is also an example of God's grace. While very similar, and sometimes the same as in the example mentioned above, there is a difference between God's grace and God's mercy. 

In short, God's grace is a gift from the Lord we do not deserve. 

An example of God's grace is God's mercy. It’s by God's grace we do not receive the punishment we deserve. An example of God's mercy is His forgiveness when we repent for our sins. Through God’s mercy, our sins are forgiven.

The mercy of God

Many pray "may God have leniency on my soul," others proclaim for God to “have mercy on me.” Through life, death, and resurrection, God's mercy is given not just to His children of Israel but to all who accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

An example of God's mercy comes in the story of Saul the persecutor. Saul was a devout Pharisee who took it upon himself to find and kill the followers of Jesus Christ. He made it his mission to destroy Christianity, one devout soul at a time. 

Saul did not see a reason to stop his behavior, but one day on his way to Damascus to continue his slayings, God appeared to the man in the form of blinding light and spoke to him. 

Despite being blinded, Saul continued on to Damascus. However, instead of killing the men and women who believed in Jesus Christ as he had originally planned, Saul repented his sins. Later, God restored his sight.

God chose to speak to Saul, proving His existence. As a result, Saul’s soul was saved.

Bible verses about mercy

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The Bible is filled with many examples of mercy from our beloved Lord and Savior. His mercy is great, unwavering, and endless.    

Here are just a few examples of the mercy God has shown to others.

2 Samuel 24:14, "David said to God, “I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into human hands.”

Colossians 3:13, "Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."

Matthew 5:7, "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy."

Luke 6: 36-37, "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven."

Titus 3:5, "he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,"

Hebrews 4:16, "Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."

Acts of mercy in the Bible

Jesus embodies the act of God's mercy in human form. He has shown acts of mercy in the Bible that are beyond kindness and compassion. Christ is merciful, and many see him as the face of mercy. 

Through Jesus’s acts as depicted in the Bible, we learn what true mercy is. He has healed the sick, the blind, and the deaf. Jesus has also brought the dead back to life. 

If those acts don't embody mercy, let us not forget that he pardoned those who executed him.

Jesus displayed mercy in the scripture by comforting those who were distressed and alleviating the pain of the suxffering. 

Jesus displaying mercy

John 8 in the New Testament tells us of a time Jesus encountered an angry crowd who were in the process of condemning a woman they accused of committing adultery. The hostile crowd turned to Jesus, exclaiming: 

“'Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’”

Instead of being influenced by the anger of the hostile crowd and taking the route of punishment, Jesus displayed mercy towards the woman, saying: 

“‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Once the crowd dissipated, Jesus and the woman were left alone. He told her:

“‘Go now and leave your life of sin’” 

Jesus did not come to us from God to punish, but to take away the sins of the world and forgive. He could have easily cast the first stone and led the crowd into a murderous riot, executing the woman for her sins. Instead, Jesus reminded those who wished to condemn the woman that everyone has sins to be guilty of. Everyone is also given the gift of forgiveness for their sins through him.

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How to show mercy in our lives

While the meaning of mercy is the same no matter the situation, it can look very different from case to case. Mercy can vary depending on the context it’s used in. 

We can show acts of mercy in our lives through random acts of kindness and the compassionate treatment we show to others. 

When we see someone in distress, such as those who ask for charitable donations outside of grocery stores. Through these small mercies, we have the option of displaying lenity and greatly helping to improve someone's life. We also have the option of showing no mercy, which puts us farther from God. 

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