The Unfairness of Mercy

the wonderfully talented jenn lebow is hosting ‘mercy mondays’ this month.  i’m joining in for today to chat about what mercy is not.

and i’m going to drop an un-christian like bomb:

i don’t always like the concept of mercy.

oh, i love it on a grand worldly scale.  let’s show mercy to the poor, the less fortunate, the downtrodden.   let’s pour compassion on orphans, and widows, and those who have been dealt hard blows in this life.  i want to rescue every woman still held in bondage, every drug addicted creature on the street.  i see Jesus in those people.  i see Jesus in the milk chocolate eyes holding my gaze through the tv screen.  i see Him in the man begging for change on hastings street.  in the single mother  who can’t make ends meet.  these are the faces that need mercy.  who deserve an outpouring of love. who have lived terrible lives that i can’t even imagine.  they are the ones who should receive mercy.

but mercy isn’t something that is deserved or earned.

no, mercy is, by it’s very definition, a gift.  free and clear.  ours for the taking.  and it’s beautiful isn’t it?  to receive that mercy.  to be enfolded in compassion.  to have someone see you when you thought no one could.  it’s glorious.  it’s humbling.  it makes you just want to fall flat on the floor in complete unworthiness and cry out a ‘thank you’ that doesn’t even begin to cover the depth and breadth of what you’ve received.

but what happens when someone is shown mercy and it doesn’t seem right?  the serial rapist who is released from jail after only serving half his sentence.  a drunk driver let off with a warning.  the notorious school bully, after torturing your child for months, now asking for forgiveness.

i could go on . . . .

your co-worker who doesn’t get fired even after she was the reason your last project failed.  the classmate who gets an extension on his paper when you managed to get yours in on time.  the spouse who is forgiven after being unfaithful.

i admit i get upset in these situations.  i scream ‘it’s not fair’ like a five-year-old when her sister gets the bigger piece of cake.  i cling to my childlike concept of fair play.  to my elementary understanding of right and wrong-i always have.  that’s how i create my sense of order in this world.   but mercy has nothing to do with fairness.  with being deserving. and i know that on a spiritual level.  but in the day to day, i find myself casting judgement.  ruling where mercy should and should not be given.  not seeing the grey area.  desiring order and reason to prevail.

but mercy is none of those things.

and so i have a lot to learn about mercy.

what are your thoughts?  do you find yourself having a hard time with this concept of mercy?  join the conversation by leaving comments and then heading to

15 thoughts on “The Unfairness of Mercy

  1. Megan, you wonderful, dear, real woman! This exactly what we love and don’t love about mercy, isn’t it? It’s a bountiful gift to us and to the needy, and way more than those wrong-minded people deserve! It’s hard to eliminate our mental classification system, isn’t it? I love how you highlighted the gray area and our childlike stubbornness in refusing to acknowledge it. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. I have so much trouble with what I deem “undeserved” mercy as well. It’s far too easy for me to rationalize treating others poorly by convincing myself they deserve even worse. It’s sobering, then, to think of what it is I must deserve. Thanks for dropping the “un-christian” bomb – I think you speak for most people.

  3. I agree. Thank you for this. What is the difference between grace and tolerance? It definitely is a difficult thing to do especially in dealing with unbelievers, and/or grace hoarders/killers. I struggle with it more often than I can admit.

    • i so loved your term ‘grace hoarder’! it made me laugh. when it comes down to it we’re all grace hoarders, and yet we still pass judgement on each other. thank you for letting me know i’m not alone out here!

  4. yes, megan! so much easier to understand mercy for those who seem to “deserve” it. but what about people that hurt us? so much harder. been struggling through this exact thing with someone. going through the forgiveness process. i say process because i’ve learned it’s not a one-time event. now i’m trying to learn to extend grace and mercy. so hard. but so right.

    • it’s never a one-time thing is it? oh, the amount of times i’ve had to relearn and relearn and relearn! i appreciate you meeting me here as i put the unpretty parts of myself out there. thanks friend!

  5. I tried to comment and not sure where it went.

    I wanted to say thank you for your post. I totally agree. What is the difference between grace and tolerance? It’s definitely hard to express especially when dealing with unbelievers and/or grace hoarders/killers. I struggle with mercy for myself and others who have deeply hurt me everyday.

  6. It’s a word I find really hard to define. I like “grace” better, but like “meek,” I can’t seem to get away from it. Thanks for putting that discomfort into words. I loved your thoughtful post.

    • thank you so much. i had such a hard time wrapping my brain around this word and then realizing that i am a long way from where i want to be when it comes to living it out. i appreciate that you understood what i was trying to convey

    • i wholeheartedly agree that we are ALL incredibly undeserving of the mercy Christ shows us. but even though we know that on a spiritual level, i guess i was just trying to illuminate how the human side of us gets in the way sometimes. it’s something i know i need to work on. thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment alyssa!

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