In this series, we’ve been on a journey to understand how Jesus wants to bring the Kingdom of God into our present reality, and who is qualified to BE people of his kingdom. And Jesus describes this for us in the beatitudes. Again too, we must remember that those gathered that day were hearing this for the first time. So it is certainly inspiring but it is also perplexing as they listen to Jesus describe what it is to BE kingdom people and experiencing his kingdom here and now…
“the poor in spirit, theirs is the kingdom…”
“those who mourn, they shall be comforted…”
“the meek, they shall inherit the earth…”
“those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, they shall be satisfied..”
And then Jesus says this: Matt. 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy!” (NASB)
As Jesus moves through the beatitudes he talks about broken people, castaways, down and out people etc. He’s talking about the kind of people he’s looking for; about who can BE in his kingdom, etc. In the process he refutes and eliminates all the workings of religion, or those who would think they are entitled, who put all their energy into looking good, impressing others, etc. And He chooses metaphors and images that provoke us to move away from the religious stuff and towards the stuff we would want actually want to run away from! That life really happens in these areas he’s talking about- poor in spirit, meekness, hunger and thirst for what is right, and the ability to BE merciful!
THE “CAUSE AND EFFECT” PRINCIPLE!
There are some places in the Bible where Jesus gives us a “cause and effect” dynamic- like forgiveness, “forgive us as we forgive others” or “the way you judge others is the way you will be judge.” And here again with “if you are merciful you will receive mercy!”
And you would be tempted to think he is giving us some sort of “formula”- if you want mercy you better be merciful, or if you want forgiveness, you better forgive, etc. In reality Jesus is trying to help us to capture the essence of these “beatitudes”, a sense of BE-ing in regard to these things; not merely some “if I do this, I get that” formula!
We need to fully understand and embrace that there is a relationship, an association and bond, between giving mercy and receiving mercy. That this IS more about “who you are” than about “what you do!” That YOU ARE merciful!
All around Jesus were expectations of what he would do for the people of Israel. No matter where people were on the economic scale, etc. they were all slaves under the Roman Empire. Every day they lived under this constant reminder. The Roman Emperor saw himself as a god and that they should worship him, etc. And the people of Israel probably not only wanted to have a king, a messiah, and be freed from this oppression, but to somehow exact vengeance and retaliation!
Have you ever felt so powerless in a situation that you desperately hoped that one day you would somehow be empowered to overpower? You felt so powerless because someone brought you a lot of pain, or hurt, or betrayal in your life? At some point in our lives we’ve all felt powerless and the natural instinct is we’ve wanted some revenge.
So the people of Israel probably aren’t too excited to hear Jesus say “blessed are the merciful for they will receive mercy!” Instead they want him to say, “Vengeance is mine says the Lord and I’ll help you get even!”
MERCY IS POWER + COMPASSION!
There’s a distinct relationship between mercy, power, and compassion! Mercy is the end result of power and compassion converging! You may have compassion for some situation but you don’t have any power to do something about it- you care but there’s nothing you can do. And you may have power but have no compassion, no desire to help someone or do something that would benefit them, etc.
So, what Jesus is saying here is this: “Blessed is the person who has the power to forgive, to acts accordingly with compassion; blessed is the person who has the right to enforce judgment but chooses to forgive and to free!”
Mercy implies that you have the power and the right to judge over someone else’s life to condemn them but instead you choose to do otherwise. You have the power and the opportunity to condemn someone or to forgive.
There is a relationship here with the principles of “those who forgive will be forgiven”, “those who judge will be judged by the same measure”, and “those who show mercy will receive mercy”, etc.! Jesus is talking about those moments in life where we have the opportunity, the capacity to, the power to act, to be forgiving, to free a person from guilt or shame, even though you could be cruel, but you choose otherwise!
There are certainly things in our lives that are out of our control considering all the injustices in the world, etc. But there are those situations and people in your life that you do have the power to do something about! Will you be a person who is known as BEing merciful? Throughout your life you will have these opportunities…
BEING A MERCIFUL PERSON!
In this beatitude, Jesus is saying that a defining characteristic of a person who BElongs to him, Belongs in his kingdom, is that they are merciful. Sometimes we are so overwhelmed by all the wrong in the world that it simply causes us to do nothing! This is the greatest danger when we become insensitive or indifferent, especially when we have the power to be merciful, and we do!
Being merciful often positions us to be burned! Have you ever been merciful, only to be taken advantage of again, and again, and again… Have you ever been forgiving only to be burned by the same person again! So eventually you just decide it’s better not to be merciful, etc. The great danger in that is to justify who we’ve BECOME by who others are BECOMING or have chosen to BE!
Mercy is always a risk. Forgiving is always a risk! Choosing not to condemn is always a risk! Jesus isn’t saying, “be merciful when you know you won’t get burned!” He says BE merciful because of how that affects you in relationship with God!
Have you ever noticed how often Jesus does this- you want to talk to him about your relationship with him and he turns it into a conversation about how you relate to others around you? In other words, your spirituality, your maturity is directly tied into how you treat others. When we want to talk to God about his being merciful to us he talks to us about how merciful we are to others!
Can we BE that kind of person? Because if we can BE, then the kingdom of God shows up in those moments! Jesus refuses to separate the reality of our spiritual vitality and the practicality of our humanity; which is sadly what “church” folk so often do and it crushes our credibility!
Every one of us in our lives will find ourselves needing a moment of grace or mercy or forgiveness… Someone will need that from us…. Will they find us merciful? You really understand mercy when someone else has the power in their hands and they choose to be merciful towards you!
True forgiveness is the act of kindness and compassion because you have the opportunity, the power, and the compassion to do so… compassion PLUS power is mercy!
What if all of us in this room decided to use all the power we have to dispense all the mercy we can? The beatitudes demand from us a human experiment, to put it into practice. What would it look like this week if we lived merciful? Because we do have the power, the opportunity to do so especially of we profess to be Jesus-followers!
As we emphasize MISSIONS this weekend, we must understand that missions and to BE missional is all about BEING merciful! Yes, many people find themselves homeless or in poverty or bound by addictions or financially oppressed because of bad choices, still Jesus calls us to bring his kingdom into those situations by BEING merciful. Of course too, there are so many other, the less fortunate, the orphaned, the widowed, the abused, like those Pastor Steven serves in Uganda, that are in those situations because of other people’s wrong choices, etc.- these certainly need us to BE merciful!
Ask yourself today and perhaps each night this week as an evaluation of your true spirituality, “where have I had the opportunity to be merciful and did I do it?” It’s your choice. Jesus is saying something really important here about the human spirit. That if you choose not to be merciful, you lose the capacity to have mercy. If you choose not to forgive, you lose the capacity to be forgiven by others, etc. Same with love! When you give mercy I promise you will get it back! It’s the same with forgiveness, love, etc.
And let’s really put this into perspective!! Jesus has a position that none of us do! He has absolute power, absolute right to judge and condemn and yet he chooses to BE forgiving and to BE absolutely merciful! And if He is merciful, shouldn’t we BE also?
Who would acknowledge today that they need God’s mercy? There’s no reason God should love, forgive us, or be merciful, and yet He chooses to do so!
When you really embrace the mercy and forgiveness that you receive from Christ, you can’t help but be that way! Everything God gives… he always gives in abundance so that you have to give it away to others! “Blessed are the merciful (have the power to judge, but choose to be compassionate), for they shall receive mercy!”