“Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.” (NIV)
“Mercy” is one of the most rich and important words in all of the Holy Bible. Randomly turn to any page of Scripture and you will most likely find the word “mercy.” Mercy is highly significant because God is merciful.
King David was known as a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). This is first and foremost about mercy. In the ancient world, when a new king came to power who was from a different lineage than the previous ruler, it was a common practice to kill all the male heirs from the former king because they posed a grave threat to the throne. David, however, did not do that; he did just the opposite. David ascended the throne and said:
“Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness?” (2 Samuel 9:1, NIV)
Indeed, there was. His name was Mephibosheth. He happened to be lame in both feet. That meant, literally, he was not able to run away when David became king. I am sure Mephibosheth believed he was being summoned by King David to his death. But when he arrived, David said to him:
“Don’t be afraid, for I will surely show you kindness…. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.” (2 Samuel 9:7, NIV)
That, my friend, is the very definition of mercy. And that is precisely the character quality Jesus was talking about in his Beatitudes.
Just as David used his power to extend mercy and kindness to potential rivals instead of exterminating them to consolidate his power, so the true follower of Jesus will identify with the powerless and give them a seat at the table.
If we are wondering, at all, whether this is really what Jesus is talking about with mercy, his words in the Gospel of Luke make it crystal clear:
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:32-36, NIV)
Merciful folks are gracious, kind, and accept others, especially an unworthy person, because they know that they themselves are unworthy of God’s great mercy and grace. The merciful person’s mantra is: “God has shown me mercy; therefore, I will show mercy to others.”
Those who are merciful will be shown mercy. If anyone treats another harshly and without mercy, they should not expect to receive blessing from God. This raises an important question which needs to be asked: Are we kind and merciful, or do we have a bent toward wanting to see others judged and punished? I share a hypothetical story….
My dear middle daughter was a remarkably busy girl. Whenever we were in public, it was my standing rule that she always holds my hand. The reason for this was that she always ran instead of walked. Holding her hand was the only way I could keep her safe and not literally run into harm’s way.
Here comes the hypothetical part: One day we are walking down the street holding hands. She gets away from my grip and runs… right into oncoming traffic… and is struck by a car. I run up to her, bend over her bleeding and broken body and say, “Well, that’s what you get for disobeying me. After all, you reap what you sow!”
Oh, my, no!… My daughter is now a Mom. And, lo and behold, she has a son just like her. I need to hold his hand, too! If an accident were ever to happen in reality, I can guarantee my response would be to run to him, bend over his bleeding and broken body, cry uncontrollably, and determine to do everything in my grandfatherly power to save his life and see him healed from his injuries.
So, then, my sisters and brothers, why in the world would we ever tell a broken hearted person – perhaps in the throes of depression or riddled with anxiety from hardship – emotionally and spiritually bleeding on the inside: “Get over it!” “Just stop worrying!” or “You need to be strong!”
God, forbid! No! Mercy! I insist, mercy! The world does not revolve on the axis of judgment, criticism, or giving someone what they deserve. God’s great big world spins because of mercy, grace, and basic human kindness that comes from the hand of a good benevolent Lord who cares about all humanity. Perhaps I must be even more specific…
- The one filled with God’s righteousness will go out of their way to show kindness, love, and compassion to the LGBTQ+ community, becoming familiar with their needs, struggles, and heartaches as they listen without judgment and full of mercy.
- The person touched by the mercy of God will intentionally seek to give people of color a seat at the table and the freedom to speak freely while listening with ears of mercy.
- The human being who follows Jesus will see the image of God in our Native American sisters and brothers and will mercifully do everything within their power to advocate for them when it comes to things like inequities of poverty, disease, addiction, and death.
- The person filled with the righteousness of God will respect all other religious people, regardless of their spirituality. They will be merciful to Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, and even Wiccans, not because they see them as potential converts, but just because they need mercy, like the rest of us.
Consider what others have to say about mercy….
“God tolerates even our stammering and pardons our ignorance whenever something inadvertently escapes us – as, indeed, without this mercy there would be no freedom to pray.”John Calvin
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”Martin Luther King, Jr.
“It is mercy, not justice or courage or even heroism, that alone can defeat evil.”Peter Kreeft
Consider what Holy Scripture has to say about mercy…
Some Pharisees asked Jesus’ disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and other sinners?” Jesus heard them and answered, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. Go and learn what the Scriptures mean when they say, ‘Instead of offering sacrifices to me, I want you to be merciful to others.’ I didn’t come to invite good people to be my followers. I came to invite sinners.” (Matthew 9:11-13, CEV)
The Lord’s kindness never fails!
If he had not been merciful,
we would have been destroyed.
The Lord can always be trusted
to show mercy each morning.
Deep in my heart I say,
“The Lord is all I need;
I can depend on him!” (Lamentations 3:22-24, CEV)
May we not succumb to thoughts of violence and revenge today, but rather to thoughts of mercy and compassion. We are to love our enemies and be merciful to all so that we might reverse the curse on humanity and restore them, by God’s grace, to their right mind, heart, and spirit.
*Above painting by Hyatt Moore