MEDITATIONS IN THE BEATITUDES – 7
Mt 5:7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Mercy is not a word that is often used in modern living. Justice, maybe, but not mercy. In the Bible mercy comes up at certain significant places: “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Hos 6:6) was God’s call to His wayward people. Jesus chastised the hard hearted Pharisees with this same verse: “ go and learn what this means: `I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mt 9:13) and again, “If you had known what these words mean, `I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.” (Mt 12:7). A blind beggar called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Lk 18:38). So what is mercy? Mercy is exercising a benign attitude towards another when all the circumstances would expect punishment or harm or judgement that fairness or justice would naturally demand. Yes, that is mercy; it is not something earned or deserved or warranted, it is just given.
Now something important to note here is that God is described in the Bible as merciful: “Let us fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is great” (2 Sam 24:14) and “the LORD your God is a merciful God ” (Deut 4:31 ) and “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Lk 6:36) That last verse shows why this is significant. God is a merciful God and He wants His children to be merciful. The most extreme act of God’s mercy towards the human race is His sending Jesus to save us. We deserve death, we deserve punishment for our sins. God didn’t have to send a substitute to carry our sins and our punishment. We didn’t earn it, and we didn’t deserve it. It was just something God just decided to do, an act of pure mercy. Can you see this, it is very important? You might say that love drives mercy, but otherwise in our natural thinking it is totally illogical. Justice demands we be destroyed, but God decides otherwise and makes His plans accordingly, which results in Jesus taking our sin so that justice is seen to be done, but the whole setting up the means of salvation is an act of pure mercy.
Now we are ready to consider our verse today. Having seen each additional beatitude as a further step in the process that opens the way for God to bring salvation to us, we should think of this verse similarly. What have we said were the steps so far? They are to recognize our spiritual poverty (v.3), to anguish over it (v.4), to be open to the will of God (v.5), and to yearn for God way of righteousness (v.6). Yes those are the steps. Now what we have in today’s verse is a proof of a right heart attitude. We can say we are open to God’s will and we can say we want to be righteous but there is a simple and practical expression of that right living: it is to live with the same attitude towards others that God has. When we come to Christ and are made aware, by the conviction of his Holy Spirit, of our sin and our failure, when that truly takes hold of us as the mourning indicates it does, at that point our sense of failure will mean that we will have no negatives towards any other person; all we will be aware of is our own failure, our own inadequacy, our own weakness. At that point we are willing to be utterly merciful in our attitudes towards others because we realize we have no grounds whatsoever to think ourselves better than any other person. It is in the midst of conviction that we become merciful; it is part of the process.
It is when God sees this attitude within us that He knows our heart change is genuine. Our becoming merciful is a proof that the Holy Spirit is having effect in us, and that is a sign that we are truly becoming ready to accept God’s will, and accept His Holy Spirit into our lives. This is an initial sign that we are willing to become like our heavenly Father, to become His children. It is at that point that God exercises His mercy and all of the work of Jesus on the Cross is applied to us, not because we deserve it – because we don’t – but simply because God in His love wants to bring it. Thus we receive mercy.
What is tragic is that, as we go on in the Christian faith, so many of us forget this phase in our salvation and start looking down on people. We become just like the judgmental Pharisees and think we are better than those who have not yet come to Christ, or better than those we perceive to be ‘less mature’ than ourselves. We need to come back to this verse and remind ourselves of the basic truths here. If need be, reread this meditation and ensure you fully understand what is being said, and then ensure you apply it every day of your Christian life.