Do Christians Show Mercy in Their Daily Life? What About Pastors?

Tennessee Megachurch Charity Event
The predominantly African-American megachurch Mt. Zion Baptist Church and the predominantly Caucasian megachurch Brentwood Baptist Church co-host a charity event in the Nashville area on Saturday, August 5, 2017. |

Nearly two-thirds of Christians and about four out of five pastors believe that mercy influences their daily behavior, according to findings from a recent Barna Group study.

In a report released Tuesday, Barna found that 63 percent of Christians say mercy influences their everyday decisions, while 83 percent of pastors said the same.

"However, another four-in-10 Christians are less likely to characterize their words and actions as merciful. It remains part of their belief, but they either don't really think about it that much, or it simply doesn't influence their actions," stated Barna.

"The apathy in this sizeable minority is reason for concern among a faith group that professes a commitment to a merciful God."

For the research, Barna interviewed 1,502 practicing Christians via an online survey and 515 Protestant senior pastors via online and telephone surveys from April 12 – May 2, with a sample error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points. 

A study detailing all their findings on forgiveness and mercy is scheduled for release in spring of next year, according to Barna. Author Jack Alexander aided in the research.

In late July, Alexander had a book published titled The God Impulse: The Power of Mercy in an Unmerciful World, which focused on the topic of "biblical mercy."

"For Jesus, truth and mercy went hand in hand. Where he preached he also healed. He didn't outsource one or the other to biblical scholars or nonprofit ministries. He presented the truth of the gospel through his words and his actions, and he did it all in a hands-on, relational way," noted the book's summary.

"Today we seem to have lost this powerful pattern of self-giving love, focusing on truth at the expense of mercy or on mercy at the expense of truth, and often failing to build genuine, lasting relationships with the people around us."

Last year, a study from Switzerland found that people who are generous and focus on helping others report feelings of happiness more than those who act on their own self-interests.

Philippe Tobler and Ernst Fehr from the Department of Economics at the University of Zurich, along with a team of international researchers, conducted an experiment with 50 people in a lab who described their levels of happiness after doing acts of generosity.

The study's participants were promised 25 Swiss francs a week for four weeks. Twenty-five of them were asked to spend the money on others; the other 25 were told they could spend it on themselves.

"Doing something nice for another person gives many people a pleasant feeling that behavioral economists call a warm glow," stated a news release from the University of Zurich from last year.

The participants consistently reported that giving made them feel good. MRI scans of their brains were done simultaneously and showed that one area of the brain triggers a response in another area that is related to happiness.

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