The first four beatitudes have already shown that a person is blessed if they are poor in spirit, they mourn and are meek and they hunger and thirst for righteousness. These are all attitudes of the heart and are mainly internalised.
With all this happening inside and an increasing appreciation and gratefulness to God, we now come to an outworking of that appreciation.
It is clear from the bible that it is impossible to pay God back for all He has done for us, but we can do good works out of gratitude and appreciation. It’s almost impossible not to, when we fully grasp what He has done. Acts of mercy are a natural response from those who have received mercy and they also demonstrate the new heart we have received as children of God.
Just as we saw last week that righteousness is a quality of God we see supported throughout the bible, mercy seems to be in evidence even more so. It is very often used in conjunction with that other popular biblical word ‘grace’. ‘Grace and mercy’. These words are similar but not identical. Grace is a kindness shown to somebody that is undeserved. Mercy is the moral quality of feeling compassion and especially of showing kindness towards someone in need. Grace is love when love is undeserved, mercy is grace in action. Mercy is reaching out to help those who are helpless and who need salvation. Mercy indentifies with the miserable in their misery.
Christians have many gifts and ministries that God has given us, but we all have the ministry of mercy.
So why should we be merciful? There are many ways, but here are just four:
(1) Because God has shown me mercy
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5)
When Jesus gave the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18, in verse 33 The King says to the person who had been forgiven a lot and refused to forgive a little “and should you not have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?”
(2) Because God commands us to be merciful
No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8) (NLT)
(3) Because I’m going to need more mercy in the future
There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you. (James 2:13) (NLT)
(4) Because showing mercy brings happiness
Do you remember what we said a few weeks ago, that another word for blessed is happy. It’s a simple, God given blessing, that the more we show mercy, the happier we will be.
The sinner despises his neighbour, but he that has mercy on the poor is blessed (Proverbs 14:21) (Jubilee version 2000)
The merciful man does good to his own soul, but he who is cruel troubles his own flesh. (Proverbs 11:17) (World English bible)
There are many opportunities to show mercy to people on a daily basis, because I don’t know about you, but other people can very often get on my nerves for all sorts of reasons.
It is wrong to withhold mercy from someone just because we don’t feel like it. Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. (Proverbs 3:27)
We can also do it begrudgingly, as a duty, but Romans 12:8 tells us to show mercy with cheerfulness. If mercy comes from the heart it should be administered in a kind way;
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)
Mercy can be extremely hard to give if we feel we have been wronged, but it is a big part of forgiveness as we have already seen in the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18.
We are also told; And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. (Jude 1:22) (NLT) not just those, but for outright sinners (we are all sinners, but we can be tempted to see some sins as worse than others). Jesus was especially good (and still is) at loving sinners. In Matthew 9 He called a tax collector called Matthew who promptly held a party for all his friends, who included tax collectors (who were the lowest of the low at the time) prostitutes and other sinners. The religious leaders were outraged, but Jesus quoted a passage which He actually used on a couple of occasions “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13) He was quoting Hosea 6:6.
You see God isn’t too impressed with religious people, with those who proudly offer the correct sacrifices at the correct times and places but have no compassion for people. God is a merciful God, because He has compassion for people; the hurting, the afflicted and the dying. Those religious attitudes were actually the opposite of mercy.
Let’s finish by considering the most merciful man who ever lived;
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)
What a privilege to show mercy, knowing we have received it so abundantly.