We didn’t know it then, but Uncle Jessie (of Full House fame) had a life verse, and it’s Psalm 51:1a: “Have mercy…”
Of course, he didn’t finish the verse, but if he had, he might have said Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Do I actually think that a fictional character on a formulaic sitcom was quoting scripture? No, not really. But there’s no doubt that this child of the 80’s should give at least some credit to the TGIF lineup of the early 90’s as a formative media experience. Without knowing it, Jessie Kastopolis (nee Cochran) was praying an ancient prayer from the Psalms.
What does it mean for God to have mercy? Bluntly put, it means that we don’t get what we deserve. The rest of the Psalm is rather incriminating, though we don’t need a Psalm to know that we’re in the wrong. It just helps put words to what we’re experiencing. Thankfully, the One who gave us the sensitivity to feel when we’re wrong is the same One who came to make it right. In the eyes of Jesus we see mercy, forgiveness, and grace. Asking for mercy is an act of worship because it expresses our awareness of God’s holiness and our lack thereof.
Asking for mercy may seem like the path to feeling bad about yourself (I sure am a rotten person). Rather, asking for mercy is a step toward health and wholeness because it addresses a need and brings resolution. Psalm 51 starts out with a request for mercy (51:1-2), continues with a word of confession (51:3-5), asks for soul cleansing (51:7-12) and then moves on past the sin (51:13-19). This is the only way to truly change. Freedom has been bought through the redemption of Christ. Freedom must be enjoyed and not squandered. When we sin, we squander our freedom and lose freedom in the end. But when we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sin, which is what weighs us down in the first place. It’s good to know that God responds to this request: have mercy. He does. He will. Ask Him. Find freedom from what happened and look forward.
Being able to move on from the past. Now that’s mercy!