One of the fundamental truths of the Bible is that God freely offers us His mercy. The fact that God freely gives us His mercy instead of us earning it is foundational to understanding how God has provided eternal salvation for us. We cannot earn God’s forgiveness. We cannot pay for salvation. God gives us forgiveness of sin and His righteousness as a free gift of His mercy (Romans 6:23; Philippians 3:8-9).
But what difference does that mercy make in our lives after we receive God’s forgiveness? How do we apply the reality of God’s mercy in our everyday dealings with others? Luke 6:36 says, “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” God’s command to us is simple. Because He has shown us mercy, we must show mercy to others. That is one direct way that we apply His mercy in our lives today. As one writer said, “God’s fundamental stance towards us is that of mercy, but that mercy makes a stringent demand upon us. If we receive His mercy, He expects us to reproduce that kind of mercy in all our human relationships.” God’s mercy is freely given to us, and it is eternity-changing. When we accept God’s mercy and forgiveness, then it changes our eternal destiny. But it also is life-changing. It changes the way that we live our lives right now. When we have received God’s mercy, then we have no reason to refuse mercy to someone else. The reality is that if we have accepted Christ as Savior, then God has forgiven us of far more than we will ever forgive someone else. He has shown us more mercy than we will ever need to offer someone else. But God’s expectation is that we should be willing to show mercy to others.
We don’t give mercy in order to receive God’s mercy, nor do we give mercy in order to receive salvation. In other words, we don’t show mercy to others so that our lives can be changed; we show mercy to others because of the change God has already made in our lives. Our mercy to others is the result of God’s mercy in our lives. That’s why Ephesians 2:8-10 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” We’re not saved by doing good things, including showing mercy to others. We are saved by God’s grace through faith. But when we get saved, then God creates us new. He makes us into something new, and we are designed to be different. Part of that design is to show God’s mercy to others. Because of the change in us, we must show mercy to others.
We may argue, “But they don’t deserve mercy! They don’t deserve my forgiveness!” Particularly when someone else offends us or hurts us deeply, we may feel that someone hasn’t done enough to earn our forgiveness. But that is the point of mercy and forgiveness. Mercy and forgiveness are never deserved. We never did deserve God’s mercy, and we never could earn it. God freely gave us what we could never earn, but now He has called on us to give that same mercy to others. People do offend us. People do hurt us. But we need to forgive them. We don’t forgive them because of who they are or what they have done to try to earn forgiveness. We give forgiveness to others because of what God has done for us. God freely gave us His mercy when we needed it most; now He calls on us to do the same for others.