In Romans 12, Paul writes about the gifts that believers in Christ have, urging believers to exercise humility in the use of those gifts. He says that as members of Christ’s body, we “have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.” (Romans 12:6, NIV)
Then he lists some of the gifts we have. Prophesying. Perhaps that means prophesying in the way that term is often used in Holy Scripture. Perhaps it means what we would describe today as preaching. Then serving, teaching, giving, leading. I think it’s safe to say that all of us think of these as gifts regularly used in the church to keep it operating practically and spiritually.
Paul lists two other gifts that, to my way of thinking, are really different. These two gifts are encouraging and showing mercy. It seems natural to say, in describing members of the church, that they are preachers, servers, teachers, generous, leaders. But encouragers? Agents or administrators of mercy? Have you ever identified a member of the church in that way? Have you ever introduced a member of the church to a stranger, using those terms? I call out these two gifts because they are different, even weird-sounding. Yet they are of eminent importance.
Someone who is your encourager or an encourager in the church generally lifts fellow believers up, helps them discover their own gifts, brings them through difficult times, convinces them of the significance of being an encourager. And someone who shows mercy is a spiritual beacon indeed. We may not think about mercy every day, but we all need mercy every day.
Some of the words used in dictionary definitions of mercy are charity, forgiveness, grace, tolerance, gentleness, and lenience. I can’t think of things that a church needs more. These are words containing solid substance. These are words in which to bathe our transgressions and wounds. These are words that expand our understanding of the gifts we have as members of Christ’s body.