Mercy was the game.
As kids, two of us would lock hands and begin a painful, bendy dance to get the other to surrender. The goal was to make the other say mercy. So, you’d twist and turn your hands to put theirs in awkward, almost tortuous positions. If the pain was too much or they tired out first, you won. You got to hear them cry for mercy.
Sometimes, grownups still like to play their childhood games. The mercy game takes on different forms as we get older. But, if you pay close enough attention, you’ll see some are still trying to play.
Listen again to the psalmist’s prayer to God. “Our soul has had more than its fill of the scorn of those who are at ease, of the contempt of the proud” (Psalm 123:4). First, note the one soul of the people. An entire group bears together the burden of humiliation and hatred. If you haven’t had to endure that, consider yourself privileged because many people do.
If you look to people inspired by looking down on others for mercy, you won’t get it. You might get scraps of pity and apathetic handouts. Never mercy. They’re too busy playing the game for that.
So, the psalmist knew to turn to God.
“For the Lord your God is a merciful God,” Deuteronomy says (Deuteronomy 4:31). And God’s mercy is the truest form. There’s no begging for it. You don’t have to wonder if God will be willing to give it to you. It’s a perpetual gift!
Likewise, there’s no test or painful experience you have to go through to receive it. There is no humiliating prerequisite. Mercy is not a game to God. It is a constant quality of the Lord’s loving-kindness.
Mercy from God is forgiveness of sin, renewal of heart and everlasting communion. For Christians, Jesus is the face of God’s mercy. Listen to Jesus’ words of mercy as you read the Gospel. It puts everything he does into faithful perspective.
At the same time, it reshapes how we live. Who are we to look down on anyone? To resist grace to another human being? With God’s help, we live merciful and gracious lives. We cannot stand to play the mercy game any longer. We are the face of Jesus’ mercy to the world.