Blessed are the merciful – Beatitudes

gawlerbapLiving in the Story

Beatitudes – Matthew 5:7
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy”.

This Beatitude signals a shift of focus. With the first four, we were dealing with essentially matters of the heart—a person’s relationship with God. Put another way, we have concentrated on a believer’s inner spiritual condition.
Now Jesus moves to talk about a way this can be outwardly expressed.

A Christian journey might begin with the teaching of the first four Beatitudes but the journey goes beyond that and is expressed in a Christian’s relationship with others. Specifically, a person filled with righteousness experiences this righteousness overflowing to others in what Jesus defined as mercy. Keep in mind the Beatitudes are not a map showing us the way to be saved, but a mirror reflecting the character of those who are already followers of Jesus.

They don’t tell us—do this and you will become someone! They aren’t exhortations but rather like an exhibition, a portrait gallery showing what a genuine Christian is like.
So far we have:
-acknowledged our total spiritual bankruptcy before God—poor in spirit;
-acknowledged our sin—mourn;
-acknowledged our spiritual poverty—meekness;
-acknowledged a hunger for righteousness—filled;
Not much use to confess and lament our sin, acknowledging the truth about ourselves to God and others if we just leave it at that!

We often hear about people who do “good things”, even things the Bible commends or commands. Some consider this “good enough”!
But, I’m going to suggest that genuine Christianity and doing good things are poles apart. Martyn Lloyd-Jones put it this way: A Christian is something before he does anything, and we have to be Christian before we can act as Christians. Still seeking people can and do, show mercy to those in need.

We see it again and again in today’s society.
An emergency occurs and the police, fire, ambulance and other medical personnel and often the defence force personnel are in attendance; people line up to donate blood.

Genuine, practical mercy and no hidden agenda. I give all credit and thanks to these people—my intention here is not to detract from what they do—and I am thankful they continue to give in this way.
But, is there a spiritual dimension in their actions? For some the answer is definitely going to be yes. We have folk in our congregation who fit in to some of the categories I mentioned.

If we look at this Beatitude and the above scenario, does it appear to you that there is a sense in which the mercy is directed to the body and mind, but not necessarily directed to the soul?
Jesus showed mercy to the whole person—shouldn’t we?
Perhaps something for us to think about.
It’s been said that faith is not a veneer.
Thinking about it, a veneer is a thin layer of something, probably most readily recognised when thinking about wood. With wood, it is usually a thin layer of say an exotic type of wood which is used to cover a cheaper or more common type of wood. This is to give the cheaper wood a better, more aesthetically pleasing appearance.

Being a “veneer” Christian is not an option!
The gospel’s purpose is to affect the core of our being, not simply to be a surface application.
We profess our faith in the way we act and the Beatitudes indicate just what we are and what we are to be.
So, when we think about mercy, what comes to mind? Some suggestions:

Mercy is compassion for people in need.
You might have noticed that Jesus doesn’t indicate categories of people he is thinking about, for whom his disciples or us, are to show mercy to.

Was he thinking about people overcome by disaster such as the person the good Samaritan tended to?
Was it people who are hungry, sick, outcast? Jesus certainly regularly took pity on afflicted folks.

Was it those who wronged him, or—we might include—us? Justice would demand punishment, but mercy, forgiveness.
Jesus does not specify just who he was meaning.
I’m going to suggest there are no specifics because God’s mercy was shown to all those people—so guess what—so should our mercy!

Mercy could also be described as a spirit of kindness which sympathises with the sufferings of the afflicted (Matt. 15:22; 17:14, 15; 1 John 3:16-18).

Mercy is not just a feeling, it’s a principle to live by (1 John 3:16-18).

Mercy is one of God’s attributes (2 Cor. 1:3; Eph. 2:4; Titus 3:5) [pause] and
he delights in exercising his mercy (Exodus 34:6; Ezekiel 33:11; Hebrews 8:12; 2 Peter 3:9).

Because God is merciful, it follows that we, as follows of Jesus, should also be merciful. One scholar has written:
-Why should Christians be merciful? Because they have been shown mercy.
-Why should Christians love others? Because God first loved them.
-Why should Christians seek to help those in need? Because God has reached down to help them.
-Why should Christians be willing to give unsparingly? Because God ‘did not spare his own Son, but gave him for us all’ (Romans 8:32).

Chrysostom has said:
Mercy imitates God and disappoints Satan.
Luke 6:36 says: Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Can’t really be any plainer than that, can it!
Sometimes mercy and grace are thought to be the same, but there is a difference. Put simply: Mercy is God not giving us what we deserve (judgment) and grace is God giving us something we do not deserve (salvation).
God’s mercy is shown by His offering humanity salvation in Christ through faith.

Mercy means we ignore the attitude of the person in need as we help—deal with what is needed rather than what is deserved.
Mercy forgoes its rights for the greater good.
Mercy does not retaliate when criticised, does not demand its legal rights but is willing to make concession on the basis of love and concern.

The greatest need any of us have is to find, know and obey Christ.
So, if mercy is compassion for people in need, one of the greatest acts of mercy we can offer is to help someone find and walk with Christ.
Mercy is not simply wanting to relieve the problem, it’s actually getting in there and doing something about it—getting your hands dirty!
If the good Samaritan had just sat with his compassion, it would have done nothing to help the man who was battered and bruised. He would have been no different to the two pious Orthodox Jews who simply walked on by.
No, the good Samaritan:
… went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him (Luke 10:34).

Many times during his ministry Jesus showed mercy, got his hands dirty.
He raised the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-17) and others, healed the blind, the mute and cured all kinds of diseases and sickness.

Just as God’s mercy was there for these people, so must our mercy be available for all people, continuously. Mercy is unlimited, continuous.

The promise with this Beatitude is that the merciful will be shown mercy. Mind you, that’s not to be the reason for our motivation—it’s not if I give I will get.
Our motivation is to show mercy as we have been shown mercy by God.
God was not blind to humankind’s rebellion and sin. He was not blind to the self-inflicted misery sin brought to every human. God’s heart was moved to relieve guilty and underserving sinners from their miserable state.

And so, He sent His Sinless Son.
God’s mercy in all its magnificence.
The mercy we are given by God is shown now and at the final judgment.
James 2:13 says:
… judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful …

When we look at this Beatitude, it shows us the positive side—as we show mercy to others, we will be shown mercy.
We are blessed when we recognise our spiritual poverty; mourn our sins and the sins of others; are meek and hunger and thirst after righteousness. It is as this happens, we will find ourselves showing mercy to others—it overflows from within us.

Merciful people recognise how unworthy and undeserving we are of God’s mercy. We accept that only by God’s grace are we saved sinners. Having received God’s mercy, we then share his mercy with others.

Reading Nehemiah 9 gives an example of Gods people, the Israelites, acknowledging His mercy. God’s mercy is a truth that runs throughout the Scriptures.

Our God is a merciful God and shows mercy continuously; as citizens of his kingdom this is how we must show mercy.

Amen.

Study Guide

The audio for this sermon can be found here.