Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.1
A lawyer stood up and asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbour?” And Jesus answered by telling a story of a person who was robbed and left almost dead on the side of the street. Then three men passed by the dying victim. First, a religious leader. Second, a devout religious man. And third, a man from another race with a different religion. Of the three, only the third man stopped to help the dying victim and he paid for the medical cost in advance while the stranger was still unconscious.
After telling the story, Jesus asked, “Now which of these three do you think seemed to be a neighbour to him who fell among the robbers?” The lawyer said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”2
Mercy is given to other people who need it but cannot repay it. The receiver cannot rob or steal or earn the mercy, otherwise it would not be called mercy anymore. In Jesus’ story above, the third man knew that there was no chance that his action would be repaid, since he was not from around there and actually his race was despised by the race of the stranger that he helped. And he did it anyway out of mercy.
Mercy comes out of the heart. “Mercy” that does not come out of the heart will be self-serving and fake. Mercy that comes from the heart is selfless—no strings attached.
One of the requests that Jesus got the most was a request for mercy. Whenever someone asked Jesus to heal him / her / someone they love, he / she would say, “Have mercy on me,” and Jesus did. So it is not surprising that Jesus taught about mercy a number of times.
When you do merciful deeds, don’t sound a trumpet before yourself, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may get glory from men. Most certainly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you do merciful deeds, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand does, so that your merciful deeds may be in secret, then your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.3
In other words, expect nothing in return from anybody, not even a praise.
Those who are healthy have no need for a physician, but those who are sick do. But you go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ for I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.4
But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.”5
In other words, do not condemn nor pre-judge, but show mercy to those who need it.
Jesus told a story about a servant whose debt was much and his lord forgave his debt out of mercy. But this servant turned around and prosecuted a fellow servant who owed him only a little…
Then his lord called him in, and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt, because you begged me. Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow servant, even as I had mercy on you?’ His lord was angry…6
The “wicked servant” looked inward and clung to what was justly his; he did not look from his heart outward to what was merciful. As long as we are preoccupied with ourselves, we cannot be merciful. “Therefore be merciful, even as your Father is also merciful”7 and we shall receive mercy. In fact, God has indeed shown us mercy in the first place. Jesus “existing in the form of God, didn’t consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, yes, the death of the cross.”8
God does not ask us to repay the cross. He only asks us to be merciful.