The Gift of Mercy
By Charles F. Stanley
Do you have a real heart for people? Do you feel tenderness toward others? Are you concerned with finding ways of showing kindness? You may have the gift of mercy.
One of the people who best exemplifies the gift of mercy in the New Testament is the apostle John. One of the foremost characteristics of the person gifted with mercy is love, and of all the apostles, John is the one who wrote the most about love - the love of God, the commandments of Jesus to love one another, and extensive admonitions to the early believers about love. John valued love highly and often referred to himself as "the one whom Jesus loved." To have been loved by Jesus was the highest reward and the most meaningful mark of identification that John felt he could claim for himself.
The gift of mercy has a number of outstanding qualities, including these seven characteristics:
1. Those with the gift of mercy have a great ability to feel the joy or distress of another person or a group. They have a heightened sense of discernment regarding emotions. They rarely have to ask, "How are you doing?" They intuitively sense how another person is doing emotionally. Those with a gift of mercy desire to see those who are hurting alleviated of their hurt.
2. Those with a gift of mercy are able to identify with others and to vicariously experience what others are going through. They have a special empathy and understanding of those who are under emotional stress and are actively attracted to those individuals. They have a great hope and desire to be able to help others by their presence and friendship.
3. Those with a gift of mercy desire to see those who are hurting alleviated of their hurt. They see virtually no benefit in pain, suffering, distress, or sorrow. They want to see all negative feelings healed and removed immediately. At times they may clash with those who have the gift of exhortation, who are able to se benefit in suffering. The person with the gift of mercy must be willing to allow the gift of exhortation to function fully, just as the person with the gift of exhortation must be patient and kind toward the person who has a gift of mercy.
4. Those with the gift of mercy are very sensitive to statements and actions that may hurt others. They often react harshly if their friends or family members are rejected or hurt in any way. They may respond in a defensive and even angry way if they sense that a person is doing something that may injure emotionally a person they love. They are very sensitive to criticism of others.
5. Those with the gift of mercy have an ability to sense genuine unconditional love and to detect expressions of love that are insincere or hypocritical. They have a greater ability to be wounded themselves; they are highly vulnerable to feeling emotional pain. Those with the gift of mercy are very sensitive to statements and actions that may hurt others.
6. Those with a gift mercy have a great need for friendship. They need to be in relationships that are marked by commitment and steadfastness. They do not have a high tolerance, however, for friends who manifest a critical spirit.
7. Those with the gift of mercy are reluctant to speak against any person, regardless of what they have done. The danger of course, is that they may not speak up in times when they should confront evil. Mercy must always be balanced with justice. God is always merciful, but it is equally true that God is always just.
Jesus was the very embodiment of God's love - He was God's "only begotten son," sent to this world as an expression of God's infinite love for mankind. Jesus always acted in a merciful, loving way to people in need. He saw and responded to inner needs as much as to outer material or physical needs. His desire and goal was that mankind be reconciled to God the Father and experience God's forgiveness and unconditional love.
John wrote: "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved" (John 3:17). Jesus did not merely talk about love in the most generous and merciful way - He gave His very life for the sins of the world.
Characteristics of someone with the gift of mercy:
- Attentive - watchful over those who are in need, or have sorrow or trouble of any kind.
- Sensitive - aware of the needs in others, even without them saying anything.
- Fair - desiring impartiality and fairness.
- Compassionate - feeling the hurts of others as if they were their own.
- Gentle - soft-spoken, tender, and caring.
- Yielding - willing to give way to the desires and wishes of others so that harmony and peace might prevail in a person's heart.
- Sacrificial - willing to suffer if it will help another person.