We reach a part of the Beatitudes where things shift. We go from posture to action, from acknowledging where we are, to determining who we will be and how we respond to the new kingdom values that are making themselves at home in our heart.
Here’s where we’ve been so far in this series…
The 1st line? Blessed are the poor in Spirit (recap)
The 2nd line? Blessed are those who grieve (recap)
The 3rd line? Blessed are the meek (recap)
The 4th line? Blessed are those who hunger & thirst… (recap)
In Jesus’ 5th simple line, he uses Mercy to help turn the page from who we are to what we do…
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (NIV)
“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.” (MSG)
Again, we ask this important question: What are you trying to tell us Jesus? What are you trying to say?
This is the only Beatitude where the word in the first part is repeated in the second part:
Mercy (or Merciful) x2.
Any time in scripture when a word is repeated, we have to pause and wonder – what’s going on here?
What does Mercy mean?
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that Mercy is irresistible love for the downtrodden, sick, wretched, wronged, outcast, struggling, etc.
- We may be distressed & needy, but we take upon ourselves others distress, concerns, humiliation. We SHOW mercy.
- (common definition) Compassion & Forgiveness shown towards someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm or judge. (Like a police officer not giving you a ticket you deserve)
What does it mean to be Merciful or show Mercy?
- In order to show mercy we cannot be afraid of other people’s shame.
- Some would say that being merciful is acting like God does, as the Hebrew word for mercy (chesedh) refers to the ability to identify the suffering of others, going through suffering with others, and entering someone’s difficulty…this word refers to God’s unique quality (in comparison to other ‘g’ gods in the Old Testament.
- This is what God did/does for us through Jesus…
- Being merciful also involves humility and meekness.
- Humble people show mercy.
- Meekness acknowledges our sin to others, and not just their sin to themselves.
I guess the question then is, to whom are we merciful towards?
(1) to me…
The first person I have to show mercy to is me.
Why? Because many of us get stuck right at this point – I HAVE FAILED. I AM NOT PERFECT.
Some of us really struggle with this, things like low self esteem. Our first thoughts when we wake up are: I’m horrible, I can’t do this, I don’t deserve this, if people could really see how bad, dumb, idiotic, sinful I am.
Now, to some degree this is true. You’re not perfect. I’m not perfect. You’ve failed. I’ve failed. But staying there doesn’t help anybody.
Mercy is moving on from the first Beatitude (acknowledging our spiritual poverty) to accepting forgiveness (Mercy) from God.
God Doesn’t See Us This Way!!!
(2) …to others…
The other person I have to show mercy to is others.
- show mercy to others who are suffering/struggling
- show mercy to others who are trapped in sin
When we show mercy to those who are struggling or suffering, what we’re doing is simply recognizing that we too could easily be in their situation.
It is so easy to forget what struggle is when things are going well.
If you think people get stuck on their own failures, boy do they ever dwell on how others have failed them.
Instead of waking up in the morning thinking that you’re horrible, maybe you wake up thinking others are horrible. You just can’t get past it. Sometimes it makes us feel better to think about how others are ‘worse than us’. Weird!!! But very human.
That is a BAD place to live. We’re so stubborn because we actually can’t see ourselves in their shoes, and don’t see that we are capable of the same foolishness. The only difference is we’ve experienced grace.
“…see them as true victims, as slaves of sin and the way of the world. Come to see them, not as people to dislike but as people to be pitied. Come to see them as being governed by the god of this world, as being still where we once were, and would be yet for the grace of God…with that in mind we can be and must be merciful with respect to them…”
(Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones)
The problem with getting stuck here is that the inability to show Mercy/Forgiveness really does become a prison that we ourselves get trapped in.
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you” (L. Smedes)
We often draw lines between people that are ‘worse’ than us, and all that ends up doing is confining us to the boxes we ourselves have put there.
It’s easy to say, he’s this and she’s a that, she’s a CEO, they’re a prostitute, he’s a politician, she’s rich, he’s poor, she’s bad, he’s worse. Those are all lines that divide. Mercy says loud and clear, I identify with your pain, your problem, your poverty, your position, your sin. I will sit there with you, and will walk with you through it.
Two stories come to mind from the gospels. The unforgiving debtor & the prodigal son.
Matthew 18:21-35…a man receives mercy for a debt he owes, then turns around and DOESN’T offer mercy to someone that owes him money….
Luke 15…a son takes his inheritance early, spends it all, nearly dies, gathers enough courage to come back, his father forgives him, receives him, and throws a party for him, only for the older brother to complain that it’s not fair.
That’s point folks. Mercy isn’t about being fair, it’s about showing love. Mercy isn’t about getting revenge, it’s about showering with grace. Mercy doesn’t pick a winner, it actually embraces the loser.
We can all say that it’s not fair, until we’re on the receiving end of mercy, then…then of course we say it’s kind, and loving, and forgiving. And we’re grateful.
Micah 6:8 was a foreshadow of this beatitude. It’s a favourite verse of many people who read the scriptures.
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
Mercy is a dance that goes back and forth. We receive and we give – we welcome it in and we extend it.
Mercy is forgiveness and humility wrapped up together.
For the follower of Jesus, being merciful is possible, only possible, because we’ve experienced mercy and forgiveness from God. We receive it and we give it.
Instead of forgiving and forgetting. Why not forgive and remember…all that God has done for you.
Take some time today to complete this sentence: I need to show mercy to _____________________.
– – – – – – – – –
Community group questions:
When was the last time you received some kind of mercy or forgiveness? How did it feel?
When was the last time you let someone off the hook for something? How did that feel?
Do you think that showing mercy to ourselves, forgiving ourselves, or at least embracing God’s forgiveness, is part of what Jesus might be saying?
What is easier, being merciful in someone’s difficulty, or showing mercy to someone who’s wronged you or sinned against you? How is the first action connected to compassion? How is the second action connected to our spiritual growth and maturity?
Showing mercy to someone trapped in sin is fleshed out in two ways. 1) For those who have sinned against you and 2) for those who are evidently sinning and messing up and saying all the wrong things to the wrong people. How can we and why should we show mercy in both those cases?
Let’s finish up by looking at Micah 6:8. Read it this way… “What does God want from me?” “He wants Justice, Mercy, and Humility.” How does that sound? About right? Too easy? Too hard? Plain & Simple?
Before someone in your group closes in prayer, take a few seconds and ask God to help you show mercy to someone who you have a hard time showing mercy to.