What is the 'mercy' Jesus is referring to?Jesus is discussing both God's mercy upon us, and the mercy that we may choose to extend to others.
We are each a child of the Supreme Being. We are His individual creations. Though He has imbued us with individuality and freedom of choice, we are still of the same nature as He. Being of that same nature, we have the same propensity for love, mercy, and compassion.
Though we do not maintain the perfection of these propensities as does the Supreme Being, we nevertheless have the ability to advance a portion of these propensities to those around us.
While requesting the Supreme Being's mercy and compassion, it is contradictory to not extend mercy and compassion to others. This was also expressed by Jesus in a statement referred to as the “golden rule:”
"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12)This concept prevails elsewhere among Jesus' teachings, with mercy coming in the form of forgiveness:
"For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matthew 6:14-15)
Does God have mercy on us?Everything we are and have are products of God's mercy.
For example, through His mercy, He bestowed upon us the freedom of choice. Each of us can make so many choices for ourselves, independent of Him. Even though God could dictate, He doesn't. He gives us a myriad of choices in terms of our activities, goals, and decisions. He has even given us the choice to ignore Him if we want.
Certainly, these choices are required for love. No one can be forced to love. As such, God gave us the choice to love Him or not. And yes, God wants our love. But we can give it or not. That is our choice, and that choice is the product of His mercy.
These choices are reflected throughout our lives. We can choose to act in a way that hurts others or act in a way that is kind and merciful to others. It is our choice.
Inherent in our choices is another type of mercy. The ability to change. Not only does God allow us to act in a self-centered fashion. He also allows us to become better. He allows us to change, and learn to care about others. He also extends His personal assistance towards helping us make those changes in the long run.
The Supreme Being's mercy is reflected not only in allowing us to change, but also in setting up the situations that allow us to change. This world delivers so many consequences for our actions - which in turn teach us and encourage us to change for the better.
So God not only provides the mercy to forgive. He also provides the mercy and the space to change.
Does self-centeredness oppose mercy?Actions that hurt others simply reflect our choice not to recognize the Supreme Being. They reflect self-centeredness.
This is because self-centeredness is the polar opposite of mercy.
Thus when we choose to be merciful to others by caring about others, we are choosing to align ourselves with the merciful nature of the Supreme Being. This is part of the merciful nature we inherited from Him.
Such a merciful nature towards others attracts the Supreme Being. The Supreme Being is attracted by activities that are merciful to others because He Himself is merciful.
Therefore, when we care about others and are merciful to others, we naturally become closer to the Supreme Being.
But being merciful to others includes understanding who we are. In other words, we should understand who we are and who others are.
What if a starving man came to us and asked us for food. Would we give him a can of gasoline to fill his car with? How would that help the man's hunger?
In the same way, realizing that our identity is spiritual is an important aspect of mercy. Certainly helping others with their physical needs is being merciful. But seeing each other as spiritual means understanding that we need spiritual food.
Spiritual food means re-establishing our lost relationship with the Supreme Being. We can help each other achieve this by praising God and reminding each other that we can only be happy if we re-establish our loving relationship with Him. This is confirmed in Jesus' teachings:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)