What is the definition of mercy?
Mercy is the compassionate treatment of those in distress, especially when it is within one’s power to punish or harm them.
The word “mercy” derives from the medieval Latin merced or merces, which means "price paid." It has the connotation of forgiveness, benevolence and kindness. Mercy is often used in a religious context of giving alms, caring for the sick or the poor.
In the legal sense, mercy often refers to compassionate behavior from a person in power, such as when a judge shows clemency, leniency or mercy during sentencing.
What is the biblical definition of mercy?
Mercy appears in the Bible as it relates to forgiveness or withholding punishment. For example, God the Father showed mercy on us when he sacrificed his son, Christ Jesus, on the Cross to pay the price for our sins.
"Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions." — Psalm 51:1, NIV
But the Bible also defines mercy beyond forgiveness and withholding punishment. God shows his mercy for those who are suffering through healing, comfort, the alleviation of suffering and caring about those in distress. He acts from compassion and acts with mercy.
In Matthew 17:15, a man approaches Jesus and kneels before Him saying, "Lord, have mercy on my son. … He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water."
Jesus' response, to heal the man's son, is one of mercy. Jesus’ compassion prompts him to act and he mercifully loves, heals and restores.
How is mercy different from compassion?
Mercy and compassion are intertwined. Mercy is the fruit of compassion. Mercy is a gift given to someone who is suffering by someone acting with compassion.
According to the dictionary, mercy is a noun. It's a mission performed to relieve suffering. It's an event to be grateful for. It's the compassion or forgiveness shown to someone. But mercy is a noun in action.
The meaning of compassion is to recognize the suffering of others and then take action to help. Compassion is more than feeling concerned about someone in distress or caring about a person's misfortune. There is action associated with compassion, and that action is mercy.
When compassion acts to alleviate suffering, it becomes mercy.
What does it mean to have mercy?
The idea of having mercy emphasizes the aspect of mercy concerning disparity in power, as opposed to emphasizing the motivation for having mercy (e.g., compassion or lenity). It doesn't exclude kindness. It simply draws attention to the relationship between having the choice to show mercy and strictly executing justice.
Having mercy or being merciful speaks of leniency, forbearance and clemency more so than grace, forgiveness, tenderness or compassion.
What does mercy mean or look like?
Mercy doesn't always involve grand moments or gestures. But it always treats the position of influence, authority or power it acts from gently. Mercy makes room for others.
Sometimes mercy means choosing not to complain to the restaurant manager when the service you received was lacking. That is the mercy of kindness.
Sometimes mercy means not making it difficult for the person who offended you to apologize. That is the mercy of forgiveness.
Sometimes mercy means correcting someone gently and not acting smug or vindictive. That is the mercy of grace.
Sometimes mercy means helping a child escape poverty. That is the mercy of compassion.