I have to admit I struggled with this one a little bit. What does “mercy” look like? Do I have a picture that expresses it? How have I experienced mercy personally?
Mercy is a concept integral to an understanding of God’s dealings with humankind. In English translations of the Bible, it comes to expression in phrases such as “to be merciful, ” “to have mercy on, ” or “to show mercy toward.” The corresponding term, “merciful, ” describes a quality of God and one that God requires of his people. The noun denotes compassion and love, not just feelings or emotions, as expressed in tangible ways.
Several Hebrew and Greek terms lie behind the English term “mercy.” The chief Hebrew term is hesed, God’s covenant “lovingkindness.” In both the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the LXX) and the New Testament, the term behind “mercy” is most often eleos in one form or another, but oiktirmos/oiktiro (compassion, pity, to show mercy) and splanchna/splagchnizomai (to show mercy, to feel sympathy for) also play roles.
Mercy is not just a “gut feeling” (splanchna) but is an outward expression of something tangible and real. It is acting towards someone not in a way that is deserved. It encompasses self-humility instead of self-righteousness, honesty instead of false pride. I thought of times where I had said or done something that was unkind, where I made an assumption instead of making a loving choice. I considered attitudes which are not merciful towards others. And then I realized, it all came back to how merciful I am towards myself. If I don’t understand God’s mercy towards me, then how can I show it to someone else?
Above all, mercy is showing restraint. Instead of exercising power over someone, to show compassion and care. So that’s why I chose this picture to express “mercy”: