Love and mercy


Brian Wilson, mastermind of the famous Beach Boy sound, says he was in his piano room playing “What the World Needs Now” when he got the idea for his 1988 song, “Love and Mercy.” He went on to say that he poured his heart into this song and that it was the most spiritual song he has ever written. Marti and I have been thinking about that song ever since we started thinking about mercy this week. As in, “I desire mercy more than sacrifice.” I want to share that song with you today.

Mercy is incredible. It’s release from pressure, release from guilt, release from debt, release from punishment, release from prison. It’s someone else paying what we owe and setting us free. Jesus stepped into our lives and paid the price for our sins and because of that God can pardon us. He can erase the debt. He can set us free. He has done this because He has had compassion on us. He knows we cannot do it for ourselves. To pay for our sins would end in our death because “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). The gift of eternal life is God’s grace — gift upon gift; the wiping away of our sin and guilt is His mercy.

It’s like knowing you’re guilty, knowing your going to die because you deserve to die, and suddenly someone comes in and stops the whole process of your conviction and pardons you. Someone pays the price for you so that you can go free. That’s mercy. And the reason we all need it is that we all deserve worse. And we know it. But you walk out of the courtroom a free man and a free woman, hoping against hope that no one made a mistake and they’ll be coming after you later.

It is truly beyond belief. It is truly beyond what we can know or imagine because we cannot imagine how bad it is without this. Mercy is God’s compassion upon those who cannot do anything about their situation. We are helpless.

When Brian Wilson sings this song, he is thinking about violence in the world, about people who are hurting and can’t do anything about their situation, and about all the loneliness in the world and realizes what is needed is love and mercy. Mercy, to free us from having to pay for going astray from God, and love that says someone cares what happens to us. Someone notices us and wants to relieve our suffering, take away our fear and come alongside us in our loneliness. We are loved.

Take a moment to enjoy this lovely YouTube version of Brian Wilson’s song by clicking on Brian’s picture above. It was taken from a concert tour a few years ago that I and my family were privileged to witness. Brian made sure this was the closing song of the evening. Notice how it plays on in your mind for a while afterwards. People walk out singing it, feeling in some small way that they have somehow received both love and mercy. I saw this concert twice and both times felt as if I had been in church.

Love and Mercy

Words and Music by Brian Wilson

I was sittin’ in a crummy movie with my hands on my chin

Oh the violence that occurs seems like we never win


Love and mercy that’s what you need tonight

So, love and mercy to you and your friends tonight


I was lyin’ in my room and the news came on T.V.

A lotta people out there hurtin’ and it really scares me


Love and mercy that’s what you need tonight

So, love and mercy to you and your friends tonight


I was standin’ in a bar and watchin’ all the people there

All the loneliness in this world well it’s just not fair


Love and mercy that’s what you need tonight

So, love and mercy to you and your friends tonight

This entry was posted in God's love, grace and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Love and mercy

  1. John A Fagliano says:

    I remember when Brian Wilson sang this, along with “Path of Life” on Sept 10th, 2005 during the MTV React Now telethon for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. I didn’t know you would also be including a video but I was so happy to find this I thought I’d share it too.

    What I love is how it’s so relatable. I feel like I’ve seen that movie, watched the news, and felt lonely too. A beautiful benediction

  2. jwfisch says:

    Thanks for this, John.

  3. That song started playing in my head when I read your first post this week. It’s a gem. Brian Wilson, who has suffered much in this life (family strife, mental illness, medical malpractice, and more), is surely an example of someone who “comforts those in trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Cor 1:3-7).

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