In Grade Nine I studied my first Shakespearean play, The Merchant of Venice. We had to memorize Portia’s speech which begins, “The quality of mercy is not strained.” While I have long remembered the first verse I had forgotten how the rest of it goes.
The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven,
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.”
Mercy is a natural virtue and not a legal one. Mercy is freely given and not an obligation. Of course he was right – mercy is twice blessed. Jesus said that long before Shakespeare was writing plays. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7). What Jesus was saying, and Shakespeare was echoing, is that when you extend mercy you also receive it.
It is not that you show mercy just to get mercy, that’s not it. You don’t give in order to get. That is not the spirit of mercy. But it just happens that the merciful become the obvious recipients of mercy. Mercy is never earned; it is unmerited. The merciful are humble people who also receive mercy. They have seen what sin and pain has done in people’s lives and rather than judging them – they provide mercy.
We need more mercy in our world today. There are those who have been forgotten and abandoned, those who have been beaten up by various events in life, those who are aching with a pain that never ceases and, those who carry guilt and grief with no idea how to get rid of it. Most people know they need mercy, they just don’t expect to find it. How sad.
Perhaps you have already discovered that since God has reached out and shown you mercy, you can reach out and show others mercy. We are here because of God’s mercy in our lives. He started it; he gave before we could do anything about it. When others around us need mercy we can be the first to offer it because mercy was freely given to us.
Who do you know today that needs mercy? Does someone need a phone call, a friendly visit, an offer of forgiveness or, just your presence in the midst of their pain? Because you have received mercy, it is twice blessed – pass it on.
See you Sunday