Proverbs 3:3 “Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart.”
The marks of a Christian can be summed up in two words: mercy and truth. Mercy, whose Hebrew equivalent is also translated as “kindness” and “loving-kindness” elsewhere in the Bible, is what results in the life of the person who has Christ living inside of them. Jesus is marked by this as we are told that He is “full of grace (an analogous word to “mercy” but mercy shown towards those who have absolutely no merit in themselves to deserve it) and truth (John 1:14).” This love is to be demonstrated in actions and attitudes towards others, all others, whether they be friends or enemies.
Jesus commanded us to “love your neighbor as yourself” and He defined our neighbor, in the story of the good Samaritan, as basically anyone in our lives who is in need. When a believer sees a need and has the capacity to address that need in some way, he or she is called to act. Such kind and loving acts show that a person IS a believer, for as Jesus said “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35).”
Love, kindness, and mercy lay the groundwork for the other defining mark of the believer, i.e., truth; truth in the sense of truthfulness, but also in the sense of being one who speaks the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). The reality of this is that sometimes the truth hurts. The truth of the Word of God includes such assertions that Jesus is the only way to God (John 14:6), that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23), that in their natural condition all men stand condemned before God (John 3:18), and that except a person be born again, they will never see the kingdom of God (John 3:3).
These statements of truth can generate negative responses from unbelievers – responses even of hatred. Jesus warned us that “if the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you (John 15:18).” If the world hates love-incarnate in the Son of God, what is to be expected for His followers, regardless of how much love and mercy they demonstrate to others as they live their lives? And though the world may not recognize it, the single greatest act of love a person can demonstrate is for that person to share the truth of the gospel with others in their life, for it is only as a person hears and believes this truth that they will be saved from the wrath to come and receive the gift of eternal life.
Mercy and Truth; may God help us to be reflections of both marks of the true believer as we confess that we follow Christ.