Mercy at the Margins

Last month in Yakima, Washington, a woman was arrested for trafficking her 15-year-old daughter for sex in order to purchase drugs.* This occurs too frequently. How could a mother end up this way? What’s in the mind and hearts of men who buy sex from 15-year-olds? The mother and daughter were working together – what?! 

This all too frequent situation conveys the complexity and the futility of seeking simple solutions. Abuse, betrayal, and brokenness extend deeper than just trafficking and drug abuse. It often stems from previous generations and choices made that create systems and cultures to further the brokenness. What is our response to multitudes of injustices? 

Tackling complex issues doesn’t happen all at once. We take the first step and begin at the beginning by extending mercy. 

The second definition of “Mercy” in Webster’s dictionary is:

“a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion.”

This is beautiful! When we extend mercy upon the broken, the hurt, the victimized, and even the perpetrators, we are extending God’s divine favor of compassion. “Mercy” is also used in legal terms as the forgiving of trespasses. God desires that all – even mothers selling their children for drugs – even men buying sex from 15-year-olds – might experience His mercy. This is a hard teaching, but without mercy, we are all lost.

This doesn’t mean there isn’t accountability for sin. Mercy and grace don’t negate consequences. Instead of retribution and punishment, wouldn’t we truthfully desire the men to be reformed, the mother to be transformed, and the daughter to be healed?. God can do even that.*

This is key: As God’s representatives, we are the ones who are extending the blessing of mercy. We extend mercy at the margins.

Margins, according to the Webster definition being,  

“. . . an area, state, or condition excluded from or existing outside the mainstream.”

This implies that we move out of our comfort to the “outside,” to places “excluded”. Like Jesus we, “Become flesh and blood and move into the neighborhood.”*

 This might not be physical. It may be extending compassion to understand someone’s point of view, absorb their culture, or move past political and racial barriers. It certainly means leaving the known for the unknown, so we can be a blessing to others by showing mercy.


What does mercy look like through the Set Free Movement? 


Yvonne and Lillian work directly against culturally accepted values and equip and encourage young women to stand up to abusive men in Kenya. It’s often dangerous for themselves and others, yet they continue looking to God for strength.

Kelly, Lauren, and many others in Youngstown, Ohio, aren’t comfortable going into strip clubs to bless women stripping. But they go. 

Nayan leaves his family and travels by bus or train to escort rescued children from holding cells to safe houses in Mumbai. 

Mayra works in neighborhoods filled with gangs, violence, and drugs to protect vulnerable children and spread the love of Jesus. It’s not safe, but she trusts God to protect and guide. 

Camille works within a broken system to bless foster families, children and teens, and social workers. IT can be sometimes maddening.

Un-named donors give thousands of dollars to the Set Free Movement so we can go to the outside, excluded places and provide challenging, yet hopeful work. 


There is sacrifice. There are challenging and awkward moments. Many times there is little comfort. Yet, the reward of being a blessing, God’s blessing, creates transformational impact for those who are desperate for mercy. And the blessing flows both ways. Both giver and receiver, and the entire community of the well-off and those on the margins are caught up in the movement of mercy from a gracious God. 

 So, we begin at the beginning and what a start it is to be a blessing! Out of blessing someone, hope, change, and healing are possible. We aren’t just “change agents” or “activists,” but “people who bless with mercy”. Amen! 


Two scriptures to conclude: 

“A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others 

will be refreshed.” – Proverbs 11:25

 It’s a scripture often used, but it’s worth embracing


 “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does t

he LORD require of you? 

To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8


Let us all be the mercy at the margins.


*See James 2:13
*Altered from the Message, John 1:14
Author: Kevin AustinDirector of the Set Free Movement.

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