What Mercy Really Means

“What an IDIOT!”

“Why would they do that?”

“Where is their brain?”

“And these people can vote?”

“Just think, these people can reproduce…”

“That’s stupid gone to seed right there.”


 Sound familiar at all? I am, sadly, far too familiar with these thoughts and statements.


And yet sometimes my response is just the opposite for people that I really, really love. “He’s trying his best.” “She has grown so much in the past year.” Or “Just think of all she has overcome to get here!”


We are funny creatures with it comes to bestowing mercy. Fickle at best.

We change our standards from day to day, moment to moment. We really are poor judges. Here’s the thing that I find the weirdest: I will often be much harder, more critical on myself than others. Honest. If you think my standards are tough for those I’m leading, you should hear my standards for myself sometimes. I can really be a scrooge with self-mercy. Perfectionism really is a thing, y’all. And while I do believe that we should strive for excellence, perfectionism can be paralyzing.


Let's start off by defining "mercy":  not issuing the punishment or consequences deserved, a pardon.


I find when I release my need for perfection to the One who is already perfect, I actually sin less. I actually judge less. I am far less critical. I actually see others with more mercy.

Mercy releases you and others from a standard

you could never keep on your own.

You see, the only One who actually has the right to hold me to perfect standards has said, “I have been perfect for you because you couldn’t be. I took your mess so you could live in my beauty.” Jesus is too busy wooing me with His love and kindness to be condemning me. And in fact, when we fail to issue mercy and grace, we side with the accuser of the brethren, Satan, in the courtroom of God.

mercy in the courtroom of God


What mercy really means is siding with the finished work of the cross rather than the hatred of the enemy.


Mercy means taking God’s perspective as your own.


Someone may legitimately deserve your wrath, but thanks to the Cross, nothing is about earning and deserving anymore.


All of us also lived among [disobedient sinners] at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ.”
Ephesians 2:3-5a NIV (Brackets added for clarification)


nothing is about earning and deserving

Mercy makes way for healing instead of brokenness. Mercy makes way for LIFE instead of death.

Don’t get me wrong, we shouldn’t make decisions counting on mercy to bail us out. We should strive to live in a way that is pleasing to God and represents His heart well.

“Figure out what will please Christ, and then do it.” Ephesians 5:10 MSG

I should be better at whatever I do a year from now than I am today. I should sin less because I know God more. I should look more like Jesus because I’ve spent more time beholding his face. So often we approach the whole growth thing backwards by focusing SOOO much on the thing that we’re not supposed to do that we end up doing it even more.

Instead, if we will focus on Jesus, His perfection, who He says we are, we will find that our need for that THING, that habit grows dim.

Ultimately, the mercy of God and His extravagant kindness compel us to live more and more Christ-like.


You see, the message of the Cross is one of mercy. If we are to be people of the Cross, we must make way for mercy. Make way for mercy with your family. Make way for mercy with yourself. Make way for mercy with strangers on the internet. If we are to live like Jesus we must freely and graciously bestow the same mercy that we have been shown.


What mercy really means is to make more of the

finished work of Jesus than the failures of men.

What about you? Where do you struggle to show people mercy? Where do you struggle to show yourself mercy? How do YOU show people mercy when they don't "deserve" it?