I've been going to church all my life. I decided to follow Jesus when I was 10 years old. I've known how to speak the "lingo" for as long as I can remember.
But I was an adult before I understood what mercy is. I don't want my kids to have to wait that long to figure mercy out. Mercy is one of the central characteristics of God. It's because of His mercy that He chose to bridge the gaping chasm that our sin creates between us and God.
As often as we throw the term mercy around, I have to wonder how many of us understand what it truly means. And how many of our kids are missing the concept completely?
Mercy is not getting what you deserve. Sounds simple, right? But what does mercy look like in the context of God? And if we're supposed to be imitating God, then what does it look like for us?
Mercy put Jesus on the cross. You see, our sin separates us from God. The consequence for sin is death, according to Romans 6:23. Our sin should have put us on the cross, but God chose to send Jesus to pay that price instead. We deserved death; we got life. That's mercy.
Help your kids wrap their heads around the concept of mercy by giving them a demonstration of mercy. When your child does something wrong, offer to serve their consequence for them. Explain that in this one instance, you are showing them mercy. You are not giving them what they deserve. Instead, you're taking their punishment for them, just like Jesus did for us.
I'm not recommending that you never discipline your kids, but if you show them mercy in a one-time, visible way and explain why you're doing it, your kids will have a picture of what mercy looks like. They won't have to wait until they are adults to figure out exactly what mercy means. They will know because you have shown them.
It's so important for all of us to understand mercy because without God's mercy, we'd all be stuck serving the eternal consequence for our sin -- separation from God forever. Instead, we can look forward to spending eternity with Him -- all because He showed mercy to us.