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Mercy. Our Loving Response to Others

Sometimes less is better.

Nestled between the books of 3 John and Revelation are the 25 verses of Jude. A brief letter to be sure. But one that is straight and to the point as he refutes corrupt teachers and encourages godly living. It’s here we find a triad, of which Jude is fond of using:

And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.
Jude 22-23

It’s the first part of the trine that I’d like to reflect on…

“And have mercy on those who doubt;”

Mercy. It’s one of the most precious realities in all of the world. And it’s one of the most revealing themes in the Bible. When we think of mercy our thoughts often turn to our God. And rightfully so.

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
Psalm 103.2-4

Mercy and grace are not strange bedfellows. These two terms, though different in meaning, are so compatible that we can hardly say the one without mentioning the other. Mercy takes us to the path of forgiveness, while grace leads us to reconciliation. Mercy implies patience and compassion. We recognize that He and only He can save us from the fire with His mighty hand.

Mercy sets the context for many of Jesus’ teaching. And we see the pleas for mercy by those who encountered Him throughout Palestine. The blind man, Bartimaeus (Mark 10.46-47). The ten lepers (Luke 17.13). The father whose son suffered from terrible seizures (Matthew 17.14-15). Although each of their circumstances differ, their cries are identical.

Kyrie, eleison. Lord, have mercy.

But that’s not what Jude has in mind. No. Perhaps the words of our Lord are at the forefront of his mind.

Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
Luke 6.36

Have mercy on those who are doubting.

In the context of Jude, it seems that the doubting may have originated from the conflicting teachings of the ungodly (Jude 4). A doubt that is a wavering, a hesitant uncertainty. A lack of confidence. Even today many struggle with the assurance of faith and salvation. Many deal with the doubts that assault us in the darkness of isolation and suffering.

So, the question becomes, how are we to treat others? Those who are not in the same place we are? Spiritually. Doubting. Suffering. How can we recognize something is wrong?

Mercy implies action. It requires being in contact and getting involved. We all must have the desire to lift up and encourage. You see, mercy is an extension and expression of love. Compassion leads you to have mercy. And mercy should be our loving response to others in circumstances of need.

And it often begins with small acts of understanding. The daily practice of being merciful in our relationships keeps weeds from springing up and choking out the flowers in the garden of our relationships with one another. And relying upon mercy protects us from the arrogance and pride that wants to judge others. It keeps our hearts open to others and for God.

What makes us think we, or anybody for that matter, deserves mercy?

Nobody deserves mercy. That’s what makes it mercy.

Mercy matters because we all need forgiveness. But mercy also matters because it is what can join us all together in spite of our differences.

And sometimes, in showing mercy to others, we save ourselves as well.