Blessed are the Merciful, for they shall be shown Mercy.
Wow! Now Jesus has moved from preaching to Meddling, as they used to say!
This beatitude seems contrary to the natural inclination. The commonly accepted explanation for suffering sees it as a punishment for sin!
Judgment can be just, people get what they deserve. The wicked are punished and the law is upheld and applied equally. And People get what they deserve….
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, this is the law!
But as Martin Luther King Jr. Said, an eye for an eye will result in a world of blind and toothless folk!
Whenever we have a faith based on the keeping of the law, we have judgment. God is seen as the great Judge of all, who watches and who sits in judgment…whose justice is swift and sure. In this
view, God is not our Father but our Judge. He applies the law and punishes the transgressors.
And our view of God affects our view of ourselves and each other. If the focus is on the keeping of the law and following of the rules, then we judge ourselves and one another on how well we live up to our expectations.
It is a harsh system of justice that isolates its members and hardens the heart. It leads to perfectionism, seeking to follow the law to such a degree that we will win acceptance, approval and ultimately love. To Win it…by our actions and attitudes and judgments.
This system seems fair and good, until we live under it for awhile. The problem is that none of us is perfect. We all fail and fall short, especially when judged against the holy and perfect standard of God and the Law.
We all know in our hearts that we fail to live up to perfection. So, we justify ourselves by comparing ourselves with others. “I may not be perfect, but at least I am not like her, just look at him!
Have you ever?
Listen officer, I was not the fastest person on the freeway…I was being passed even though I was going 90, there were folks speeding faster then me! …”
We feel better about ourselves by comparing ourselves others. But in the harsh code of justice the Law makes no exceptions, and there are no excuses. At least not good ones.
No one can live up to the harsh perfection of the law.
Jesus came to show us a different way and To set the system of law on its head. Setting a new system of grace and mercy. God is not seen primarily as a judge, but rather is a loving father who cares for us so much that he is willing to send his only son…to be our savior.
The book of James says that “Mercy Triumphs over Judgment”. These are words of liberation and freedom. We, who experience the grace of Christ, live under a new law…a law of love that sets us free. The Love of God in Jesus Christ is the foundation of our love of self and love for others.
Mercy begins with our understanding AND experiencing God’s
love. The law teaches that we are all sinners who fall short of the glory of God. As the Apostle Paul laments, “the things which I hate I find myself doing, and the things that I love, I do not do.
Wretched man that I am, who will set me free from this bondage of sin and death?
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 8).
In Jesus we are loved, forgiven and set free.
The Old Testament word for Mercy is “Ches-ced” It is also the
word for compassion. Mercy and compassion are intertwined. It implies more than forgiveness, but a deep empathy and understanding. You must first get inside of the other persons skin, to walk in their shoes, feel what they feel and experience life from their perspective and experience…as you understand them you can
Jesus is God’s Ches-ced. God gets into our skin and comes inside humanity…experiencing the world as we experience it. He can therefore understand and empathize with our experience. Book of Hebrews talks about this and says,
“for we do not have a high priest (Jesus) who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted as we are in every way—yet without sin. Let us therefore,
draw near and approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16).
Jesus is God’s mercy, his Ches-ced. He understands and
sympathizes with our weakness…and because of him we can draw near and receive Mercy and find grace!
That is the first step in being merciful…having received mercy ourselves. We come to accept and understand that we too are human…that we are imperfect and have made our own share of mistakes.
And that we have been forgiven. We experience the mercy and forgiveness of God in Christ…
And that moves us to be merciful. How can we condemn when we have received grace and forgiveness?
Jesus told a parable to illustrate this exact point. It is the parable of the unmerciful servant, in Matthew chapter 18. You likely are familiar with the story…but certainly you are familiar with the sentiment…
A certain man owed the king a million dollars. The king called the man to account and he could not pay the debt. The king was going to have the man punished and put into prison…but the man fell to his knees and begged for mercy. The king was moved to compassion and forgave the debt.
He did not give the man more time or work out some
accommodation to pay the debt…he forgave it completely! What
joy, the burden was lifted! This reflects the great heart of the king!
On his way out of the palace, the man who was forgiven came across a person who owed him a much smaller sum…a $1,000. The man grabbed the debtor by the neck and began to chock him and demand payment. The man begged for mercy, using the exact same words that the first man had said himself to the king…but the man would have none of it. He threw the man into prison until he could pay the debt.
Doesn’t it make you mad? Well, when the king heard of it he
became livid with anger! He called he first man into his judgment court and berated him…I forgave you this huge sum, and you could no forgive your fellow?
If you were king, what would you have done? He puts the man in the prison cell of the second fellow and set him free.
The final line of the parable is haunting:
“so shall your heavenly father do to you if unless your forgive your brother from the heart.” (Matthew 18:35).
Unless you forgive your brother or sister…from the heart.
The second step in becoming merciful is empathy and understanding. Seeing the person whom you might judge AS our brother or sister…
We seek to understand before we can judge. And when we understand, we find compassion and mercy.
AND MERCY TRIUMPHS OVER JUDGMENT! We are to
forgive because we have been forgiven. We have received grace…the unmerited favor and forgiveness of God. We have had our debt removed, we have been set free.
Mercy is not something you learn, like algebra or dates from history…it is something you experience.
If you find yourself being judgmental…critical and demanding perfection, even of yourself….
Remember, you are forgiven. You are the person who’s debt has been paid and who is set free to live anew! Remember Mercy. Focus on Jesus Christ, God’s great act of mercy (ches-ced).
Forgive, just as the Lord forgave you! Forgive, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.
Forgive, as we pray each day…forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
“speak and act as those who are being judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!
Mercy triumphs over Judgment. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.