Mercy alone can be harmful.
My five year old recently came inside crying because she got a splinter. Mercy rose up in me. I knew the splinter had to come out. But when I tried to remove it, she recoiled in pain, screaming, “Don’t touch it! Don’t touch it!” My efforts to bring healing were hurting her.
In your life, maybe it’s not a splinter but loneliness, exorbitant financial debt, high blood pressure, cancer, a troubled marriage, a gender identity conflict, sexual temptations or addictions, unwanted same-sex attractions, current problems stemming from past abuse or neglect.
Mercy wants to rush in with comfort, kisses, anything to relieve pain, calm fears, ease aloneness. (Oh how we need more mercy on the earth!)
But here’s where mercy alone fails us: The pathway to restoration usually requires more pain, not less. And because it aims to alleviate pain, mercy falters. And if it does, it ends up cooperating with the source of the original pain. It makes an allegiance with the true problem. (Incidentally, this is happening in so many sectors of our present culture: problems of debt, sex and sexuality, obesity, politics, busyness.)
For my little girl, mercy alone would have left her limping and fearful. With bigger problems, when healing requires greater pain, the consequences are much more substantial where mercy balks.
To be truly merciful, mercy needs truth.
Where mercy’s focus is easing pain, truth’s focus is exposing and dealing with the source of the problem. (Truth needs mercy, too—the topic of next week’s post.)
The cross is so important here. In the cross, mercy and truth are wed. They become loving allies, a unit, always working together. Truth empowers mercy to be truly merciful.
Whether receiving mercy for yourself or letting it arise in you for the good of another, you need more mercy, not less. Receive mercy and truth together.
I’d love to hear from you! Do you agree that mercy without truth can bring harm? In what ways have you experienced how truth empowers mercy to be truly merciful? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.
Finding my tweezers,