Merciful

We continue our look at the Beatitudes and how they are fleshed out in the Sermon on the Mount.  “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” As we have seen, each Beatitude plays a part in setting up the rest of the Sermon, and is connected with the other one-sentence promises.

During my 45 years of following Jesus, I have fallen short often. There have even been a couple of occasions where I told the Lord I was going to do what I wanted rather than follow what I knew to be his will. Yet, here I am currently feeling so blessed as I reflect on my life. There is a saying that I have heard several use when asked how they are doing. “Better than I deserve,” is their reply. That is exactly how I feel as I look at my life. God has been so merciful to me.

All the preceding Beatitudes find their culmination in this one. When one knows how undeserving he/she is of God’s love and acceptance, then it is much easier to show mercy because earned mercy is an oxymoron. So often, our demonstration of love and acceptance is based on what people have done for us. Jesus speaks directly to this when he asks the question, 

If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? (Matthew 5:46-47)

We love people who are unworthy of it, we show them mercy, because “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) In other words, we were shown mercy when we had done nothing to deserve it. Recognizing our spiritual bankruptcy makes mercy flow much easier from us. And when we are mournful for both our sin and that of others, again, we are much more open to being merciful because we are mindful of our own shortcomings. 

Also, when we recognize our spiritual bankruptcy, we can be more self-controlled in our response to others. Our anger and outrage at injustice and others’ sins can be tempered by the recognition of our own fallenness, leading us to be more merciful to those in our line of fire. 

Finally, mercy is the outflowing of righteousness, because our God is righteous and he is abundantly merciful. Thus, if we hunger and thirst for righteousness, the outcome in our lives will be demonstrations of mercy.

The Sermon is full of exhortations to be merciful. We are told to take the initiative in reconciling with someone who has something against us. (Matthew 5:23-24) We don’t stubbornly wait for them to come to us. The Lord tells us not to take revenge on those close to us or on our enemies. (Matthew 5:38-45) Instead, we show them mercy. He tells us not to harshly condemn others, and before critiquing the behavior of others, to first critique ourselves. (Matthew 7:1-2) That will lead us to be more merciful. And he sums up this Beatitude by warning that we will be judged in the same way we judge others. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

So, if we come back around to the Capitol Breach and all the political fomenting that proceeded it in the streets and on social media, there is an obvious application to our discourse and actions. Instead of lobbing rhetorical bombs at one another, and, yes, many of those doing it, claim to follow Jesus, it appears our Lord is calling us, rather, to be merciful toward those with whom we disagree. In fact, he sums it up with what is commonly known as The Golden Rule: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

I think what Jesus is saying, obviously, like the one owing his king an unpayable debt, we would prefer to be shown mercy by others; thus, we should do the same for them. The question we should always ask ourselves in relation to our social media posts, our rhetoric, and our behavior, is this: Would we want others to treat us similarly? 

It is a very simple, yet very powerful question, which if asked, will radically change how we relate to one another and to the unbelieving world. And in doing so, our lights will truly shine before others, reflecting the King whom we serve.

© Jim Musser 2021 All Scripture references are from the New International Version, 2011.

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