Matthew 5:7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
In order to talk about mercy, we must first recognize the difference between mercy and grace. Basically, mercy can involve a pardoning or forgiveness. Mercy also includes compassion and kindness shown to others. Grace may include mercy but is not always the case. Grace is the giving of an undeserved gift. In our case, God gave us the gift of eternal life when we were sinners and totally undeserving. In fact, we deserve eternal punishment.
I can receive mercy on a daily basis from others. There are people who show compassion and kindness to me in light of whatever situation I might be experiencing in my life. I receive pardons for transgressions I commit against friends and loved ones. I receive forgiveness when I have wronged one close to me. These are some examples of how I receive mercy.
So, how am I to be merciful? I am to give the same consideration to others. I need to be compassionate and kind to those who are dealing with life’s harshness. I have often thought of mercy only in terms of forgiveness when I have been wronged. Recently, I have noticed that blessing others with compassion and kindness is a form of mercy. Letting a person know I am praying for him is a form of mercy. Checking back with a person and asking how her recent situation is coming along is a form of mercy. Withholding or eliminating my judgment of a person is a form of mercy.
To be shown mercy, I must be merciful. This reminds me of the verse later in Jesus’ sermon from Matthew 7:1-2, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the same measure you use, it will be measured to you.” What stands out her for me is the ‘measure’. I notice in many of Jesus’ teachings he uses cause and effect. There are measures, consequences for actions, firsts and lasts, and judgments.
We have to be careful not to misuse mercy. There are times when we have been wronged and we grant mercy out of fear. We may fear that we will not be liked or someone my think badly of us. There are also times where if we were to not show mercy, someone may call us ‘unchristian’. There are times where showing mercy for wrongs only allows a person’s behavior to continue instead of calling him on his behavior and giving him a gift of seeing how he hurts others. This is a form of hiding behind mercy because I may fear my boldness will create a conflict. I don’t believe Jesus wanted us to misuse mercy in this way. And, even in the calling out of the wrong, we are merciful by walking alongside the person as he adjusts his way.
I want to revisit my initial thoughts about mercy growing up…where I equate mercy with forgiveness. To forgive is to show mercy as well. To receive forgiveness, I must be a forgiving person. I think of the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:21-35) when it comes to this form of mercy. He had been forgiven a large debt by his master. He turned around and demanded repayment of a small debt from a friend and was unmerciful as he dealt with his friend. In turn, the mercy shown by his master was rescinded. To receive mercy, I must show mercy.
Lord, help my heart to be more merciful every day. Thank you for the mercies you have shown me.
1. List some ways you have received mercy?
2. In what ways have you been shown the mercies of kindness and compassion lately?
3. In what ways have you shown compassion and kindness lately?
4. Where in your life and to whom do you need to show kindness and compassion as mercy?
5. Whom in your life do you need to extend forgiveness?
6. Who in your life needs to be called on a continuous behavior? Are you willing to do this in a merciful way?
7. Look for and take opportunities this week to show the various forms of mercy. Keep notes on how that happens for you and what God does in your life around these mercies.
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