So we have love and mercy seemingly at odds with one another (one might say that the opposite of love is wrath. While this may be true, I’m not trying to create polar opposites. Mercy is necessary as a result of God’s wrath - different discussion for a different post). What is the relationship between God’s love and His mercy? Is one more important than another or does one take priority over another?
Just because you are showing someone mercy doesn’t mean you love them. A king might be merciful to a subject, but that doesn’t mean that they love them. For example, he might be getting something in return for his mercy - say a bit of information or perhaps accolades from onlookers for being so merciful. Either way, it doesn’t necessarily follow that mercy is evidence of love
Is there an equation in which mercy and love are partners? Surely there must. Perhaps if we ask a different question or approach it from a different angle. In the above example a king is merciful, but not necessarily loving. What, though, would be the outcome if king was loving? I would argue that if the king is loving that mercy would naturally flow out of that love. Put differently, love always produces mercy, but mercy is not always evidence of love.
The old equation is that God’s mercy shows His love (which may or may not be the case as seen above). In this new equation, love begets mercy. In fact, love always includes the aspect of mercy. Where there is love, there is mercy.
There are spiritual and theological implications for this new equation. Consider this: when God loves, He only loves He chooses to love. He certainly doesn’t love us for anything we have done (according to western theology - original sin), “when we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The problem with mercy is that it is dependent on our “response” to our own sinfulness. Mercy seems to become conditional (despite what Paul states in Romans 9:15) in contemporary application.
What I would like to propose is that we begin to think in terms of love being the starting point for God’s activity and not his mercy. “Cheap grace” does not have to be the assumed outcome for putting God’s love first. God’s love is compelling; compelling us to be transformed through the work of God’s love in Christ. By beginning with love you allow God to be truly who He is in His freedom. Alternatively, if you start with mercy you don’t start with God, but with yourself.