“That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee.”
Some people will say, “I have the gift of mercy.” They say this because they tend to let people get away with doing wrong, which is a total perversion of mercy. If it were possible for a person to have the gift of mercy, that person would also be an individual who faithfully applies judgment because you cannot exercise mercy without judgment. In reality, a person who truly exercises mercy in the truest sense of the act is a person who is a great discerner of a person’s intents.
In the verse above, God shows what true mercy is all about. Two words describe when mercy should be given, and those two words are, “That then.” God told Israel that if their sins caused them to be driven into captivity that He would be merciful and deliver them if they chose to do right in judgment. God placed the onus on the person who did wrong for getting mercy and not on the person who executed judgment. Let me give you several statements about mercy that will help you to determine when you should be merciful to others.
First, repentance is always a requirement for mercy. You must never exercise mercy without the one who did wrong first exemplifying true repentance. Mercy is the reward for doing right in judgment. If a person does right, they should be rewarded with mercy, but not before they do right. Repentance must always be the catalyst that spurns the consideration for mercy and not feeling sorry for the person.
Second, mercy without repentance is enabling more sin. Many people think that being merciful to a person and not making them pay for their sin is kind, but let me remind you that you are enabling that person to do greater sin if you don’t make them pay for their wrong. Mercy cannot be given without judgment first being applied; therefore, anything considered to be mercy without judgment is simply letting a person get away with doing wrong. If you don’t apply judgment before you give mercy, you have kept that person from experiencing the wages of sin, which is totally unscriptural.
Third, obedience in time reveals true repentance. It is interesting that God said that Israel was to “return unto the LORD” and “obey his voice” before He gave mercy. The truest indicator of whether a person is truly repentant is if they continue to do right while they are being judged for their wrong. A person who is truly repentant realizes that they deserve judgment because of their sin. It doesn’t mean that they don’t want mercy, it just means that they know they are experiencing the wages of sin. A truly repentant person will continue to do right if they never receive mercy because they want to please the LORD. Not until you see this determination to do right will you know whether the heart of the person is truly repentant. It is when you see this that mercy can and should be considered.
Fourth, mercy is the act of the person who applies judgment. My friend, mercy should be a part of the tools a believer uses to restore the fallen, but mercy applied without judgment is a weapon of destruction. The greatest way to keep someone from doing wrong again is to only give mercy after an individual repents and continues to do right during judgment.