Matthew 5:1-12 ESV 1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Each beatitude starts with the word “blessed” which is sometimes translated “happy”.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy
Living without mercy is the beginning of dying without mercy. On the other hand, living with mercy results in being treated with mercy.
John Wesley visited General Oglethorpe when he was governor of the colony of Georgia. The general mentioned an incident involving a man who had angered him, and remarked, “I shall never forgive him!” Wesley answered, “Then I hope, sir, you never sin.” Wesley may have been thinking of Jesus’ teaching that those who are not merciful and forgiving will not be treated with mercy and forgiveness.
This beatitude, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” raises three very practical questions.
1. What is mercy?
The English definition of mercy invariably refers to physical acts of kindness. For example, treating the poor with affection and generosity, feeding the homeless. But there is another dimension to mercy which is the essence of blessedness and happiness.
Mercy is not emotionalism.
To be merciful is far more than shedding tears. Of course, those who are merciful sometimes do shed tears. The scriptures tell us twice that Jesus wept. He cried with Martha and Maryas they grieved over their brother’s death. Another time he cried over the city of Jerusalem.
Luke 19:41-44 ESV And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, "Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation."
But Jesus did far more than just weep—he gave himself for those He wept for. It is easy for some to shed tears that are meaningless and unproductive. That's emotion without the motion—and that's not mercy!
Mercy is not just humanitarianism either.
Mercy goes beyond handing out clothes and food to the homeless and elderly. It's more than contributions to help victims of natural disasters and other tragic eve events.
1 Corinthians 13:3 ESV If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
The mercy Jesus was talking about is much more than the mechanics of doing good.
Mercy is an attitude, an outlook on life.
It is not something that can be “turned on and off” at will. Mercy is more than end-of-the-year giving to the church for tax purposes. Mercy, as demonstrated by Christ, involves the way a person truly feels. It is an underlying attitude of life. Mercy is to see others as Christ sees them and feel toward others as he feels toward them. In short, mercy is to have the attitude of Christ toward everyone.
Philippians 2:1-7 ESV So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
That is mercy to the soul. It extends love and warmth to those deprived of a connection to God. It is sensitive to those that are bleeding and dying and bringing the healing that Christ bought on the cross for them through His own blood and death. To those that are weak and growing, it reaches out to strengthen and equip them through the word of God and prayer. It touches lives through counsel, reproof, prayer, forgiveness, comfort, offering God’s mercy through Christ. This mercy can only come from those lives in whom Christ lives and reigns, those hearts led by the Spirit.
Mercy is action.
Mercy is action. If we have an attitude of mercy, we will perform acts of mercy. When mercy is translated into action, we are kind and gracious in our judgment of others. We look for the best in others. Our concern is redemption, not condemnation.
Mercy that is action ministers to others like in Jesus parable of the Good Samaritan where at the end of the parable the lawyer had to admit that a “neighbor” is one who acts.
2. How can I become merciful?
First remember your own need for mercy.
We often make mistakes that require God’s mercy, so we should be merciful to others.
Galatians 6:1 ESV Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
Jesus also told us to check ourselves before we confront others;
Matthew 7:4-5 ESV Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.
Find out more about anyone you are inclined to judge.
Chances are you really do not know that person very well. The word prejudice means “prejudging,” or making an estimate of others without knowing the facts. We frequently do this without knowing the person at all! It is easy to be unrelenting in our judgment of those we do not know, so we need to become better acquainted with others’ backgrounds, the problems they face, and the reasons for the scars they bear.
Matthew 7:1-3 ESV "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
Allow Christ to show his mercy through you.
Christ in you is your only hope of becoming a loving, merciful person. As you surrender your bitterness and resentment to Christ and allow him to live and work freely through you, mercy becomes a normal attitude of life.
2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
As this new creation you have the fruit of the Spirit deposited in you that enables you to me merciful.
Galatians 5:22-23 ESV But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
3. What can I expect as a result of being merciful?
Mercy from others.
In many ways life is like a mirror. Life reflects what you put into it. If we are unkind, life becomes unkind. If we judge others, we will be judged by others. On the other hand, love produces love and mercy produces mercy.
Luke 6:37-38 ESV "Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you."
Mercy from God.
To the extent that we forgive others, we are forgiven by God.
Matthew 6:14-15 ESV For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
So if those of us who have been forgiven so much are unwilling to forgive others we can't expect God to show us the love and mercy we want. God will not show us the mercy and love we won't extend to others! If we forgive others when they injure us, our Father will forgive us. We forgive because we have been forgiven.
How are we to conduct ourselves in forgiving others? We must forgive, even if the offender does not ask to be forgiven. We should treat the one who has injured or offended us with kindness, not harboring any grudge or speaking of that individual condemningly. We should always be ready to do them good if the opportunity arises. This is a tall order!
First, it produces peace. Second, it sets the example for the offending individual—and for everyone else—of the goodness of God. You are well on your way to a happy life when you allow the Holy Spirit to cleanse you of stubbornness and unforgiveness.
The “merciful shall obtain mercy.”