He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. – Micah 6:8
It is easy to understand what it means “to act justly”: we are called to do the right thing, to make the right choices, to treat others fairly. But what does it mean to love mercy? This one can be hard. Extending mercy to someone feels, in many ways, like letting them off the hook; like they are getting away with something. It’s not fair. They should get what they deserve.
But isn’t that exactly what mercy is: getting something you don’t deserve…
The main reason that we are called to be merciful is quite simple: God is merciful. One characteristic of God that sets Him apart from all others is that He never asks us to do something that He is not willing to do Himself. He is not like the Great and Powerful Oz who projected a fearsome persona to intimidate, nor is He like the gods of ancient Greece who lived a life of ease, looking down upon helpless mortals with disdain. No, our God is different — and vastly so: He is a God of mercy and compassion.
In fact, He does not just show mercy to those who deserve it, as we are inclined to do, “The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him;” (Daniel 9:9)
Justice may well be our first reaction, and yet God calls us to lead with mercy.