What is mercy and what can we glean from the Bible about it? As Christians, we easily recognise that the whole world desperately needs mercy right now. And it’s refreshing to realise that mercy was central to the life, ministry and message of Jesus.
Matthew Clarke and Bella Rossini-Clarke have just written a book called Disrupting Mercy: The Gift of Extreme Kindness Motivated by Compassion, and they believe Biblical mercy has the power to be radically disruptive and transformative.
Matthew is the principal researcher with the Freedom Case Research Project, focusing on prevention of human trafficking. Bella is the founder of Turning Teardrops Into Joy, a sustainable enterprise that sells coffee to raise funding for international development projects.
Drops of Mercy
Matthew and Bella recently joined us on 20Twenty to talk about their first-hand experience in dealing with the complexities and contradictions with victims and perpetrators of human trafficking
‘We see everything we do in our life as part of our ministry,’ says Bella. ‘We’ve spent a lot of time building a bedrock of community where we can discuss and challenge each other about what is missing in that space that we could dive into and do our research in.’
Matthew and Bella say that Turning Teardrops Into Joy is a small, sustainable social enterprise that has a few different projects under it. But it’s purpose is to be a little coffee shop business that sells coffee and facilitates conversations.
A Deeper Need
‘I see the importance of feeding the idea of mercy in your everyday life,’ says Bella. ‘It’s the drops of mercy that have been really strategic and important, because we then dive into that network and are able to bring out this much deeper need of mercy in a much more difficult space.’
Matthew has also done some significant research around the word mercy and is challenging some of the simplistic ideas that we have about what mercy actually is.
‘What does mercy mean to a victim of human trafficking?’ says Matthew. ‘And in a more complex question, what does mercy look like to a perpetrator of human trafficking? I want to try to get past the common stereotypes. I tend to think the simple definition of mercy is that mercy is compassion in action.’
Matthew says that while there are many stories in the Bible about mercy, he and Bella were particularly inspired by Zacchaeus, who was an outcast because he was a tax collector, betraying his people by collecting money on behalf of the Romans.
A Radical Transformation
‘But Jesus moves towards the exploiter,’ says Matthew, ‘and Zacchaeus had some radical transformation. We don’t know the actual content of their talk together, but it radically changes Zacchaeus and I think it’s a prime example of the transformative effect of mercy.’
Jesus sided with the perpetrator, and told him that he also was a son of Abraham. Zacchaeus sees that as an act of mercy that completely changes his life. He gives his money away to the poor and pays back the people he wronged. By rescuing the perpetrator, Jesus also rescued all his future victims.
‘The thing that you pick up from the life and the teachings of Jesus,’ says Matthew, ‘is that the greatest love is shown to your enemies. It’s not an act of mercy to be kind to someone who’s nice back to you.’
‘But precisely to show kindness to people who nobody would expect you to, because they don’t seem to deserve it. That’s where mercy lies.’
Listen to Matthew and Bella’s full interview on 20Twenty below: