Living a Lifestyle of Mercy

By Jim Olsen

Key Verse
Matt 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy (eleos).”

We’ll be going deeper into what God’s mercy is and particularly, how we keep ourselves open to giving and receiving it. Romans 12:8 declares mercy brings us cheer “if (the charisma gift) is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” Many are unaware of the model the Bible lays out describing how God’s mercy works.


It starts with understanding the definition of the Greek word for mercy. In English, mercy has a fairly generic definition, it’s defined as a compassionate act. The Greek language word, eleos, has a more descriptive definition. It’s defined by Thayer as “kindness or good will towards the miserable and the afflicted, joined with a desire to help them.” So, we start this lesson understanding that mercy extends to those who are oppressed and mercy is designed to help bring them cheer.


Mercy is also a boomerang gift; the more you give, the more you get. Consider tonight’s key verse, for that’s where mercy starts – giving another refreshment.  Matt 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy (eleos).”


Paul laid out the foundational reason for mercy in Romans 11:29; mercy is God’s kindness shown to a disobedient people. In fact mercy, eleos, is always used of someone who needs a life intervention, a person who needs kindness shown to them.  Let’s take a close look at that scripture.


Romans 11:29 begins with a statement: God’s gifts and call are irrevocable. God is ‘unable to repent’ of mercy. This means that when you meet God, you come to someone who is always merciful, always kind, his nature never changes. The apostle John said “God is love,” and that will never change. So, just like a room fills with light when you turn on a lamp, God fills up a room with mercy when he is invited near. In verse 30, Paul tells us why God is merciful: Because Israel consistently disobeyed him; every disobedient believer is shown mercy. Desire, need, desperation and yes, disobedience all are magnets for God’s mercy. That’s because God is love. Paul continues the teaching in Romans 11:31, where he declares that the mercy we are shown because of Israel’s disobedience now reverts back to Israel, reciprocating to where it started.


Paul then makes a bold declaration, a statement in direct contrast to what our current culture says. He says God puts everyone in a room called ‘disobedience or unbelief’ so that he may show everyone in the world his mercy, his eleos. So, to understand how God’s mercy works, you have to understand that you; the reader of this article, are considered disobedient.


Rom 11:29 “For God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable.  30 Just as you who formerly disobeyed God have now received mercy (eleos) through their disobedience, 31 so they too have now disobeyed, in order that they too may now receive mercy (eleos) through the mercy shown to you.  32 For God has consigned all men to disobedience so that He may have mercy on them all.”


God’s mercy is designed to bring us out of trouble; but that’s not just for us. Like Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful.” Mercy always brings others comfort and joy. Consider the mercy shown to Paul’s servant, Epaphroditus: It rebounded back to Paul. Paul recognized the hand of God’s mercy. It brought cheer, saving both Paul and his servant sorrow upon sorrow. Phil 2:27 “He was sick indeed, nearly unto death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow.”


In fact, it’s God’s mercy that extends a free gift of salvation to the world; a gift of mercy designed to take away our misery. Paul described God’s mercy as being wealthy and rich. It takes lifeless, sinful, disobedient people and makes them alive with Christ. Eph 2:4 “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy (eleos),  5 made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead in our trespasses. It is by grace you have been saved!”


Jude takes a deeper look at God’s mercy, eleos. He talks about it in three contexts. He first says we have to wait for God’s mercy. We wait in his love, because God moves in love. He then says to treat doubters with the same love and mercy we were treated with, for the key to receiving mercy is giving mercy. He finally talks about purity. He urges us to make sure we extend mercy to the most disobedient. When we show mercy, we are to take the utmost care that we do not partake of their deeds. Keep our hearts pure, Oh God.


Jud 1:21 “keep yourselves in the love of God as you await the mercy (eleos) of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you eternal life.  22 And indeed, have mercy (eleos) on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; and to still others, show mercy (eleos) tempered with fear, hating even the clothing stained by the flesh.”


A trustworthy saying is something that should be paramount in our lives. Concerning mercy, Paul considered himself at the center of giving and receiving it. The amazing part of Paul’s teaching is that he received all of it directly from the risen Christ. That trustworthy saying is “Christ came to save sinners, and I am chief.” The Bible describes it over and over again, from the two blind men to Peter denying Christ, to almost every encounter with God: You must come before God as someone who knows that it’s our disobedience that causes God’s mercy to shine toward us. If the church is ever to break out of its four walls and minister to mankind, every Christian must know that without Christ’s presence in their lives, they are no better than anyone at all. All have sinned and all can receive mercy and cheer from God through Christ.


1 Tim 1:15 “This is a trustworthy saying, worthy of full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst.  16 But for this very reason I was shown mercy (eleos), so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His perfect patience as an example to those who would believe in Him for eternal life.”


So now we stand at a crossroad. The ideology that the world fills us with is “I’m Ok, You’re Ok.” Are we going to challenge that? Does God really consider all men as disobedient so that they can all receive mercy? Are we going to search our souls and tear off the false image of maturity, and humbly recognize we are no better than the least of us? Humility should be a goal of high priority. Whenever humans gather together, people always tend to choose ranks to distinguish themselves from others. The truth is: If you judge others, you’ll be judged, and no mercy will be shown to you.


Jam 2:12 “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom.  13 For judgment without mercy (eleos) will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy (eleos) triumphs over judgment.”


As with everything in our faith, it is God who works in us and for us and through us. If you’ve searched your heart and found a judgmental spirit, apply a two-step process. First, come before Jesus; ask him to fill you up by thanking him for those who offend you. The scriptural principle that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” can change your life when you understand we are chosen to be a thankful people, thankful for everything, because we understand that behind everything, there is a God who is in control. The second thing to do is show mercy to others; listen for his prompting, do good to an individual or group that you are holding something against.


1 Pet 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By His great mercy (eleos) He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  4 and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, reserved in heaven for you,  5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power for the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”