Facilitator: Deacon Olumefun
Beatitude #5: Blessed are the MERCIFUL…
Text: Matthew 5:7
INTRODUCTION: So far in our study on The Beatitudes, we have examined our need to remain poor in the Spirit (that is, in complete dependence on God), our need to always mourn for our sins and the evil in the world, our need to be meek—to have the right or the power to do something but refrain in humility for the benefit of someone else…and last week, we learnt to always hunger and thirst after living such lives as are consistent with us being the righteousness of God. Today we take it further. Let’s be reminded that The Beatitudes are not telling us how to become a Christian, they are telling us what a true Christian looks like. They are the distinguishing marks of a true Christian. Today, we look at one more of these distinguishing characteristics of a true Christian: MERCY. We will use two Bible stories told by Jesus to learn this beautiful virtue.
THE SOURCE OF MERCY
Story 1: The Parable of the Ungrateful Servant. Matthew 18:21-35
According to TLB (The Living Bible), this man was owing the king approximately £3 million and becaue he begged, the king forgave him and waved off the debt. Immediately after he was forgiven, the man went straight to someone that was owing him approximately £700. He “grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment…He had the man arrested and jailed until the debt would be paid in full.” (verse 28-30). When the king heard, he was angry and said in verse 33 “shouldn’t you have mercy on others, just as I had mercy on you?’” Therefore he was handed over to torturers until he has paid the money in full.
What does this story teach us? Simply this: OUR MERCY TO EACH OTHER COMES FROM GOD’S MERCY TO US. You get the power to show mercy from the real feeling in your heart that you owe everything you are and have to sheer divine mercy.
THE PORTRAIT OF MERCY
Story 2: The Parable of the Good Samaritan. Luke 10:30-37
There are four dimensions to mercy from this parable:
- First, mercy sees suffering/pain (verse 33: “A Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and HE SAW HIM“).
- Second, mercy responds internally with a heart of compassion or pity toward a suffering person (verse 33: “When he saw him, HE HAD COMPASSION on him”).
- Third, mercy responds externally with a practical effort to relieve the pain (verse 33: “He went to him and BOUND UP HIS WOUNDS, POURING OIL AND WINE; then HE SET HIM ON HIS OWN BEAST and BROUGHT HIM TO AN INN, and TOOK CARE OF HIM“).
- Mercy happens even when the person in pain is your ‘enemy’ (verse 33: “But A SAMARITAN . . . “). Jews hated Samaritans, yet this Samaritan helped the Jew.
Summary: An eye for distress, a heart of pity, an effort to help, in spite of enmity—that’s mercy.
THE OPPOSITE OF MERCY
It’s easy to think that the opposite of mercy is justice or even wickedness but if we look at the Parable of the Good Samaritan, we will find that the opposite of mercy is represented by what the Priest and the Levite did—they both ignored the suffering person because of they were being religious. (In the old testament laws, a Priest should keep himself holy and might become contaminated by touching dead things so when he saw the suffering man, he crossed to the other side of the road and walked away so that he won’t be contaminated. Likewise the Levite—his Levitical rites involved that he shouldn’t contaminate himself, so he also walked away). Sometimes, in fact most times, the opposite of mercy is for us to be so caught up in our religious activities that we have no eye to see distress, no heart to respond with compassion, and no effort to bring the relief of the gospel.
SHOULD WE ALWAYS BE MERCIFUL?
Let us discuss these practical case studies:
- Can a Christian be consistently merciful and yet be a parent who spanks a child for disobedience instead of turning the other cheek to the child’s insolence?
- Can a Christian be consistently merciful and yet be an employer who pays bonuses for excellent workers but fires irresponsible employees?
- Can a Christian be consistently merciful and yet be a legislator who give stiff penalties for drunk driving?
- Can a Christian be consistently merciful and yet be a member of a Church Council that follow the biblical mandate for church discipline and excommunicate a leader or member for unforsaken, public sin?
The point to make here is that God is both a God of Justice and Mercy and He desires that there will be a mingling of mercy and justice in all spheres of life. God’s will is that sometimes we recompense people with what they deserve, whether punishment or reward (that’s justice). And God’s will is that sometimes we recompense people with better than what they deserve (that’s mercy).
HOW CAN WE KNOW WHEN TO SHOW ONE OR THE OTHER?
By getting as close to Jesus as you possibly can. The more we stay in fellowship with Jesus, the more we reflect His heart in our day-to-day decisions. There are times when we will show justice instead of mercy or mercy instead of justice and we will know that we’ve taken the wrong decision. At such times, we shouldn’t be too big to apologize to the offended party—even if that person is your child.
WHY WILL ONLY THE MERCIFUL OBTAIN MERCY—IS SALVATION NOT BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH?
Of course, salvation is by grace through faith and we don’t earn mercy by being merciful. Rather, what Jesus is saying here is that when we stand before God on the final day to give an account of how we have lived our lives, by virtue of the fact that we have shown evidence of our faith by being merciful unto others, we will receive the ULTIMATE MERCY of being in His presence forever and ever! Therefore, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
Being merciful is a great virtue and is a product of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Let us be sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit as we go on with our day-to-day activities showing mercy to others as we have been shown mercy by God. May the Lord bless this word in our hearts in Jesus name. Amen.
How can we show mercy?
1. In deeds.
Feeding the hungry (physically and spiritually), or giving water to the thirsty, clothing the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the prisoners and sick, and burying the dead.
2. In words.
Mark 16:15-16 by preaching the gospel…
3. In prayers.
Praying for people (1 Tim 2:1), for government and those in leadership, for the unsaved, for fellow Christians (Eph 6:18), for preachers (Eph 6:19-20) and for the persecuted. Praying for others shift the focus off ourselves…