Is Like Washing A Car
With A Dry Cloth
It is no surprise that Jesus mentions mercy in the Sermon on the Mount. Of all the characteristics attributed to God mercy predominates.
God was merciful to:
- Adam and Eve when they ate the forbidden fruit.
- To Cain when he murdered his brother Abel.
- To Abraham when he lied about his wife Sara, not once but twice.
- To Joseph when he was in prison through no fault of his own.
- To the Israelites when He delivered them from Egyptian slavery.
- To David when he committed both adultery and murder.
And there are many statements in the Bible which declare mercy to be one of God’s most outstanding qualities. It certainly is the one that most defines His relationship to humanity.
Psalm 145:8-9 says,
“The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion, slow to anger, and of great mercy. 9 The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.”
In Psalm 136 alone the phrase “His mercy endures forever” is repeated 26 times, once for each verse.
The word “mercy” is used 274 times in the Old Testament and almost half of those are found in the Psalms.
And Jesus made it clear that God shows mercy to everyone everyday with the rising of the sun and seasonally with the falling of the rain.
As I said, it is no surprise that Jesus features mercy in His sermon more than once and the “Fruits of the Spirit” include qualities (Longsuffering, gentleness and goodness) that are expressions of compassion.
A full discussion on mercy, which is not the purpose of this post, could focus on any of the following facts:
- No one does or can deserve it, although in some cases you must qualify.
- From God, it is freely available to everyone long before we realize our need for it.
- There’s never a time God isn’t expressing it.
- Mercy is both general and universal and is expressed in God’s gift of sun and rain (material and temporal).
- Mercy is also individual and personal which is expressed in salvation and the opportunity to change and serve (spiritual and eternal).
- Everyone and everything desperately needs it everyday (even animals and the universe around us).
- Everyone can extend it.
- And lastly, it is compounded or hindered by human actions.
In Jesus’ sermon, however, He is not addressing any of these points other than the last three. The mercy God extends is well represented throughout the Bible but mercy is also the responsibility of men and women as they relate to each other. Jesus was addressing those points about mercy which we are least likely to attend.
As one writer put it, we are very willing to turn people over to God’s mercy but not so willing to give much of it ourselves. That makes Jesus’ comment about this matter very significant. Clearly He thinks we should be merciful also.
There are several verses that reinforce this idea:
Speaking to God the Psalmist said, “To the merciful you will show yourself merciful,” Psalm 18:25.
And Solomon made several pertinent remarks about the mercy one person can show to another:
- The merciful man does good to his own soul…, Proverbs 11:17.
- He that has mercy on the poor, happy is he, Proverbs 14:21.
- Mercy and truth preserve the King and his throne is upheld by mercy, Proverbs 20:28.
In the New Testament, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees because mercy was one aspect of their spiritual disciplines they neglected. The word He used was omitted.
God’s merciful nature and kind deeds are not the subject here. Our ability to emulate these qualities is. Jesus was addressing Himself to and talking about those who need and can also give it, not God. The mercy givers in this passage are people, you and I, who need it from fellow humans and receive it mostly because we give it.
The bottom line is, the mercy God gives is beyond measure but it isn’t enough. To get through this life well we need mercy from each other too and the best way to get it is to do what we are not inclined to do, give it. Jesus put it this way…
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Paul’s statement about sowing and reaping (Galatians 6:7) echo’s the sentiment of this verse and others by Jesus. What you give is what you get and usually in the same or larger proportions. In this particular case it is what you give to people that counts the most.
Jesus’ remarks also imply that we can never give mercy from a condescending perspective. We might be more lucky or talented than those to whom we extend mercy but we are never better. Every person needs it everyday so none of us can extend it with an attitude. Arrogant pretentious mercy is anything but.
And being merciful is not an easy thing to do. Mercy is what we extend to offenders as well as friends. Unfortunately, we usually know more of the former than the latter.
Let’s face it. Most people don’t walk around worried about God stealing from them, abusing them in various ways and/or murdering them. We do, however, worry about other people and the abuses they commit against us. Sometimes we’re even wary of Christians. Because of that we are more intent on protecting and defending ourselves than giving mercy. If we wish to change the behavior of others toward us we must first change our behavior toward them. We must give them, not what they deserve or expect, but what they need, mercy.
And, according to Jesus, doing good things for those you aren’t inclined to like is not only an act of mercy but is also one way to be like God (Luke 6:27-36).
Help us out. Can you list ways you have shown mercy or ways in which mercy can be shown without focusing only on the easy targets? For example, tell us how to show mercy to terrorists, muggers, rapists and murderers and to the needy who live out of site.
Remember though that mercy is not forgiveness or restoration. It does open the door and provide the opportunity to achieve these ends. Mercy is what I should give to individuals in spite of their being offensive to me. Relationships may not be restored because I have shown mercy but they won’t be restored if I don’t.
How to effectively show it is the question.
Tell us what you THINK!AboutIt.