The Hebrew word hesed in the Old Testament, which is most often translated as mercy, is in fact a word that is so rich in meaning that we cannot adequately contain it in English. It holds within it qualities of love, faithfulness, kindness and solidarity. It has been expressed in various translations as ‘loving kindness’, as ‘steadfast or constant love’.
Other words in the new Old and New Testaments seeking to express this quality contain a range of meaning that includes grace, motherliness, compassion, forgiveness.
In was this last, forgiveness, that I-and I imagine others-most commonly associate with the mercy of God. And yet in the Bible, mercy is even greater than forgiveness. It is the whole activity of God in our lives: a forgiveness that does not bind us to living with what we cannot live with, but releases us from bondage to our past; it is a grace that does not look for repayment, but goes on giving generously and lovingly to ‘good’ and ‘bad’ alike; it is healing that accepts us all our brokenness, and requires only our admission of wound and offence to meet us.
And I saw that this great quality of mercy was embodied in Jesus in compassion and solidarity.