God’s Offensive Mercy

Does the mercy of God sometimes offend you? It should. We love God’s mercy when its extended towards us, or those like us. But that’s not the nature of God’s mercy.

After commanding his disciples to love those who hated them, even their enemies (Matt. 5:43-44), Jesus appealed to God’s mercy as a model for their own: “For He causes His sun to shine upon the evil and the good, and the rain to fall on the righteous and unrighteous” (Matt. 5:45). For Jesus, sunshine and rain represented God’s daily mercy towards all humanity; God does not distinguish between the good and the evil, the righteous and the unrighteous in His mercy. And so, Jesus says, neither can we: “Therefore be merciful as your Father in heaven is merciful” (Luke 6:36).

We love to think that our “relationship” with God brings us special privilege and connection to Him, yet Jesus states that God’s mercy extends to everyone. He doesn’t show partiality. He even shows His mercy towards those who are not like us and do not agree with us, towards those who do not live as we think they should, or even in obedience to God. In this way, God’s mercy offends us.

We can often become ego-centric in our spirituality thinking that we hold a special place in God’s heart. And we do, but so does everyone else regardless if they are good or evil, righteous or unrighteous. When we realize this, we often find ourselves like the older brother in Jesus’ parable, which we’ve named the “Prodigal Son” (Luke 15:11-32). He was offended about the mercy shown by the father to his younger brother. The parable ends in an open-ended manner with the father and brother standing in the field. Did the older brother enter into the house to rejoice at his younger brother’s return? Or, did he remain in the field?

The focus of the parable is often directed towards the younger son, but in reality, the main character of the parable is the father, who has two equally lost sons. The father represents God, who shows his mercy to both sons, but the unfinished ending of the parable indicates that Jesus thought his audience would identify more with the older son, who was offended by the mercy of the father. The parable’s open-endedness sought to cause Jesus’ listeners to realize that they too must show mercy as the father in the parable did, even to those who offended and hurt him: “Be merciful as your Father in heaven is merciful.”

Jesus portrayed God as a model of mercy that we are to follow and emulate. God’s mercy extends to all whatever their state. And that can offend us. At the same time, Jesus believed that in the manner we show mercy towards others, like ourselves, we will receive mercy in the future: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy” (Matt. 5:7).


Father, offend us with Your mercy. Help us to follow Your example by extending mercy to all, righteous and unrighteous alike. Amen.

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