Once upon a time, mercy was not a character trait people desired. Mercy was a sign of weakness. Then, in Jesus’ first sermon, He called people to be merciful. Like the previous beatitude, this attribute goes against culture.
However, what Jesus shared in the Sermon on the Mount matters just as much today. While we praise mercy in churches, many have trouble living merciful lives. In our competitive world, it is common for people to hold grudges, seek revenge, and put one’s self first. All of which are in opposition to mercy.
Yet, Jesus says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy (Matthew 5:7).”
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines mercy as “compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one's power; a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion; and, compassionate treatment of those in distress.” Let’s dive into our discussion of this next Beatitudes.
Mercy Builds on the Previous Beatitude
Having discussed the previous four beatitudes, it is important to review the main ideas to better understand mercy. For example, a merciful attitude is produced by the first four Beatitudes. As we are humble and recognize our need for a Savior, as we are broken over our sin, as we learn to wait and trust on the Lord, and as we hunger and thirst for righteousness, we naturally become merciful toward others.
Mercy Comes from Mercy
Christians have been shown mercy through God giving us His only begotten Son. It is through this extravagant mercy that we are able to extend mercy to others.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”
- 1 Peter 1:3
When you have been shown mercy, it is easier for you to extend mercy to others. It is not just hearing that you’ve been granted “mercy.” It also means you have felt the effects of mercy. For example, it is often those who have been shown mercy, when they did not deserve it, who are most able to grant another undeserving person mercy.
God is Our Model of Mercy
Warren Wiersbe explains, “Having received His mercy, we then share His mercy with others.” It is through His mercy when we sinners are able to enjoy a relationship with the Creator of the universe. It is only because of his mercies that we may enjoy the many blessings He bestows on us in this life.
Throughout the New Testament, Jesus shows us how to be merciful. Jesus extended mercy to people the Pharisees were judging and provided examples of mercy with parables such as the Good Samaritan. You don’t have to look far to find examples of Jesus’ merciful attitude. If we are following in his footsteps, we too will be merciful.
What Mercy Looks Like
So, what does mercy look like? We know mercy is no longer viewed as a weak character trait, but how does attitude change us? Simply put, mercy is more than a feeling. Mercy requires action. Jesus did not simply feel pity for those who were suffering – He acted! He gave forgiveness. He showed compassion. He was kind. He poured out empathy, and He constantly modeled generosity.
Treating People Better Than They Deserve
The concept of mercy is most understandable when we treat people better than they deserve. We have all experienced hurt and betrayal. We have all been hurt by others. Extending mercy involves forgiving someone even when society expects revenge. It is easy to demand our rights, focus solely on justice, judgment, and punishment for those who have hurt us, but the Bible points to a better way.
“Speak and act as those who are going to be 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.”
– James 2:12-13
Forgiving Others When They Hurt You
Along these same lines, mercy means forgiving others when they hurt you. We must recognize our need for forgiveness. We have all fallen short. Yet, many of us struggle to offer forgiveness instead of holding grudges and harboring bitterness. Mercy chooses compassion towards the offender rather than allowing yourself to be hardened. Look toward Jesus’ great extension of mercy on the cross while we were still sinners.
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
- Luke 6:36
Aiding Someone Even Though Your Help is Not Required
Finally, being merciful means being willing to aid someone even when your help is not required. Those who are merciful are compassionate toward those who are struggling. They offer a hand and a shoulder to lean on. They pray for strangers. They help those who society says don’t deserve their help, which we see in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Mercy sees brokenness, and mercy is broken by what it sees. Mercy takes action to heal the brokenness.
“Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor
will also cry out and not be answered.”
- Proverbs 21:13
Mercy Does Not Deny Wrong
Before we end today, it is important to note mercy does not bury its head in the sand. It does not deny wrong. Mercy does not cover or defend sin. Instead, mercy shows compassion for those who have sinned and seeks to reconcile them with the Lord and each other.
Furthermore, this beatitude ends with a blessing. Those who are merciful “will be shown mercy.” As we live merciful lives, we will see mercy granted to us.
Wiersbe, Warren. Be Loyal: Following the King of Kings. David C. Cook, 2008.