I wrote an article last week about mercy and I had a lot more to say that would have made the piece too long. Consider this an addendum:
Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.
Note what Paul says here about showing mercy. Simply put, the Apostle reminds us that mercy must be done with “cheerfulness” or it might as well not be done at all. Granting mercy is not an opportunity to have someone “owe us” later, or the chance to hold something over someone’s head in order to guilt them. God’s mercy on us was total. He remembers our sins no more. Our extending of mercy should be just as complete. Otherwise we are liars and not really granting mercy at all. There is no “begrudged mercy;” you’re either being sincere or…
Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
See how naturally this verse follows the one before it? Our mercy must be sincere otherwise we are hypocrites. Paul says that our love must be “without dissimulation” (without hypocrisy). We can act loving, we can look loving but neither of those things matter if we are not actually loving. So what does genuine mercy look like? Paul tells us that too…
Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
Our disposition in life should be summed up in one phrase: “kindly affectionate.” The two words are actually a single compound-word in the original language: philostorgas. The word carries a combining of the ideas for affectionate love (phil) and family love (storgas). In other words, the kind of mercy, compassion, benefit of the doubt, and hundreds of excuses and second chances we give our family members is the same kind of mercy we should extend to “one another.” This is talking about an affectionate love for someone else as if they were blood-kindred to us. Our brethren in Christ should be treated family, not like strangers we only see once a week.
That’s why Paul here calls for us to have “brotherly love” for each other. That’s what brotherly love is: The “phil” in philadelphia describes zealous, affectionate love (“adelphia” describes a blood brother). We must love each other (who are not our family) “so much” that we love them as if they were.
Finally, Paul tells us to “in honor, prefer one another.” When we love each other like family, it become easy to sacrifice for them. When we love each other like family it becomes easy to think less about self and more about others. When we love each other like family we won’t grumble or complain when we’re asked to put someone’s needs before our own, or to act in a way that comforts someone else, even at our own discomfort.
Every kind of love that brethren can have toward each other is mentioned in this verse. We should be treating our brethren like family, loving them zealously, and putting their needs before our own. This is not the way the world treats each other, but this is the way Christ would have His people treat each other; not with a sigh or a grumble or a desperate search for a “reason why not to,” but with sincere mercy and love for others, even to the point of self-sacrifice. The world will call it crazy, but Paul calls it Christianity.