|Love mercy. — Micah 6:8
A couple asked to speak to me after a “Sacred Marriage” seminar. The husband had done some truly heinous things, and their marriage seemed on the verge of breaking up. The wife rightfully desired to call him to account. We talked for over an hour, and both of them left in tears — good tears that were bringing healing and restoration.
I gave the sermon at their church the next morning, and the husband sheepishly approached me after the services. “I bet I’m the worst man you’ve ever preached to,” he said.
“You’ve certainly done some awful things,” I admitted, “and you and your wife invited me into some of your worst moments — but I know that’s not the whole story. If someone created a video of my worst moments, and that’s all you were to see about me, you’d be tempted to kick me out of this church before you’d shake my hand.” Because we married a sinner, we’re going to see some ugly, ugly things. That’s why our attitude toward another’s sin will determine, in large part, the degree of intimacy we can achieve in marriage. A Pharisee might impress a mate, but he’ll never get truly close to her, because judgment repels intimacy as surely as heat melts ice.
One glorious day, God used a Bible verse to open my eyes to a reality so large that it changed everything about how I view my marriage and my standing before God, as well as how I am to treat others.
Micah 6:8 tell us to “love mercy.” That short phrase — “love mercy” — kept playing in my mind.
Love mercy. Micah isn’t telling us merely to “demonstrate” mercy or only to “practice” mercy; he tells us to fall in love with it!
The wide, biblical concept of mercy includes forgiveness but also has roots in loyalty. One commentator notes, “This steady, persistent refusal of God to wash his hands of wayward Israel is the essential meaning of the Hebrew word which is translated loving-kindness [or mercy].”8 This is a loyalty and forgiveness seasoned with graciousness and kindness — particularly to those who don’t deserve it. It is one of the most beautiful words in the English language and certainly one of the most precious truths in the Christian faith.
What does it mean to fall in love with mercy? It means I am to become mercy’s biggest fan. Having received mercy from God, I am to walk in assurance and thankfulness, using my own gift of mercy as the lens through which I view anyone else’s sin— including that of my spouse.
Mercy is wonderful. Without mercy, I’d be damned for all eternity. Through his mercy, God made a way for me to enjoy eternal happiness instead of never-ending pain and torture. Mercy also allows me to minister. As a fallen man who sins daily, I could never even begin to reach out to others with God’s perfect gospel unless every hour I live in the joy of knowing that Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on my behalf has set me free and washed me clean. In short, without mercy, I’d be toast; but with mercy, the celebratory toast never ends!
Falling in love with mercy means I love everything about it. It means I also love the way it applies to the person I married. Just as I love my wife when she’s in the kitchen, the living room, and the bedroom, so I love mercy when it’s applied to me, my wife, and my children. There is no arena where I don’t delight in mercy. People who love mercy feel eager to show mercy to others. Like God, they not only want to forgive, they are eager to forgive. You don’t have to convince them to show mercy; they love to show mercy!
A Christian spouse who understands mercy is a husband or wife who looks forward to another opportunity to demonstrate God’s grace. It is a believer eager to forgive, whose first thought leaps toward reconciliation rather than revenge. Mercy isn’t an obligation grudgingly given in to — it’s the love of his or her life! It’s his or her favorite practice.
Listen to one of the most practical applications of mercy I’ve ever read about. A wife got in an accident while driving a brand-new car. She felt understandably upset, fretting about what her husband would say when he found out. As she retrieved the insurance papers from the glove compartment, she found this note in her husband’s handwriting: “Dear Mary, when you need these papers, remember it’s you I love, not the car.”
You are an imperfect, very fallible, prone-to-mess-up sinner saved by mercy. You married a fallible sinner who needs the same remedy. The intimacy of marriage cannot be sustained without mercy. Our sin and guilt are so powerful that, absent mercy, every human relationship will fall before their might. You can self-righteously judge every spouse who has ever lived. You can prove his or her guilt in a court of law. You can compellingly state your case and clearly demonstrate how far your spouse has fallen short — but the judgment you render will kill intimacy in your own life; it won’t kill sin in your spouse’s life. It will also herald your spiritual poverty and destruction: “Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (James 2:13).
This week, meditate on mercy. Fall in love with it. Seek to understand what a gift you’ve been given in God’s mercy. And then, from that foundation, explore the riches of extending this same mercy to others, beginning with your spouse. Commit to memory the theologically crucial phrase “Mercy triumphs over judgment,” and seek to build your marriage anew on the back of God’s gift rather than on the failed policies of the legalistic Pharisees.