The Mercy of the Wicked is Cruel

The righteous know the needs of their animals, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.
Proverbs 12:10

I can remember the moment when the meaning of the second half of Proverbs 12:10 finally made sense to me. I was standing out on a cold morning in front of an abortion clinic in Kentucky. I was holding one of my then one-year-olds and trying to talk to a woman coming in for an abortion. I was speaking quietly, letting her know that there were other options available. She looked sad, afraid, and honestly, she looked like she was listening to me. I offered to walk her over to the pregnancy resource center next door to the clinic.

But, she was also with a man. I don’t know if it was the child’s father, or a family member, or a friend. But he took it upon himself to “defend” this woman. He did so by shouting at me, blocking my path, yelling vile things about me and my child, and in the end spraying me with a bottle of Mountain Dew. He then high-fived one of the abortion clinic escorts and walked the young woman into the clinic.

“The mercy of the wicked is cruel.”

I don’t doubt that this man desired to protect the woman. He no doubt thought that trying to overpower my words and my presence was “mercy.” But, it was remarkably cruel. The abortion clinic escorts, whom I got to know a bit over my time in the ministry, threatened me at times. They called CPS on me, telling them that I endangered my children in a bid to have them taken away. They lied about me, on one occasion telling my wife that I had left the premises with a prostitute. And they did so in the name of mercy. They were seeking to help poor women that I was seeking to abuse. But…

“The mercy of the wicked is cruel.”

As a missionary, I hear from time to time the disapproval of others. Mostly in the unbelieving world, there are many who believe that we are arrogant and destroyers of culture. I talked a little about these accusations in a previous post. But now I want to remark the tone of these criticisms. What has resonated through these comments is hatred and anger. Even as more information has come out regarding John Chau’s preparation and love for the people, the vitriol remains. I have copied a few comments I have seen on the news articles here:

Hamid Mohades World would have been exponentially better place if every other tribe would have done the same through history of mankind.

Terje A. Bergesen The Sentinelese – making the world a better place one missionary at a time.

Steven Kelleher Dont send your child to a fundamentalist Christian school. It’s obvious. This insult to life didn’t need to happen. I feel sorry for the parents and very angry at the crazy schools and missionary movements that killed him. I feel worse for the North Sentinelese. What a horror.

Scott Harbin Literally no one should care about his obsessions or intentions. He got what he deserved – at minimum. Stop reporting on his death. Stop.

Scott Brook Gladly he failed. Take note others, live and let live.

Laura Digiovanni I think all evangelicals should visit this island.

Do you hear the cruelty? People are actually calling for the killing of missionaries! Regardless of your thoughts about the manner of his death, this is not mere disagreement. This is hatred, cruelty, malice. And it is in the name of mercy, with a desire to protect the Sentinelese people. But “the mercy of the wicked is cruel.”

Mercy that begets mercy

Contrary to what you might have read, when missionaries go out to the nations, it is not because they are really passionate about their own values. We go out because we believe that the God of the universe has communicated HIS values. And those values include: truth, justice, love, and mercy. But it is not a mercy that begets hatred and violence. The mercy of God begets mercy.

I was wrestling to think of a very clear example of this. And my mind went immediately to the testimony of Rachel Denhollander in regards to the sexual abuse perpetrated by Larry Nassar. Rachel was abused by Nassar, as were hundreds of other girls. And she has mercy on those other girls and spoke up to defend them. If you take the time to listen to her full testimony you will hear a lot of things: anger, sorrow, betrayal, and fear. But you will hear something else: mercy. But not only mercy for the victims, Rachel showed mercy to Nassar. You can hear in in the below clip:

How is that even possible? How could an abuse victim do anything else but hate her abuser? She said it better than I could: “By his grace I too choose to love this way.” Christians are people who know the mercy of God. We know that we have offended God so much more than we have offended others, or than they have offended us. “That is what makes the Gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found.”
I would ask you to consider your mercy right now. When you think of the Sentinelese people, or abuse victims, or trafficked children does your mercy for them cause you to hate others? Does it cause you to wish for the death or torture of people created in God’s image. Is your mercy cruel? Then you do not know true mercy. True mercy, which comes only from God, begets mercy.


Only when you truly understand that you are an offender, a sinner, an abuser, you know that the only way you can be saved is through mercy. This truth is what led Rachel to both hate Nassar’s sin and still not hate the man. What an incredible power the Gospel has. When you see the life-changing, life-empowering strength of the Gospel, you begin to understand why John Chau would go to the Sentinelese people. This is an amazing message, one that none of us deserve, but is offered to us all. Praise God for the message of the Gospel, and allow it to create in you an unnatural love and mercy, even for those who have shown you nothing but hate and violence.


Author: David M. Hare

Dave is a husband, father of four Africans, and is currently helping the Kwakum people do Oral Bible Storying and Bible translation in Cameroon, Africa.