Blessed are the merciful- by Jonathan Baker.
March 2nd, 2015 | John Chandler
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
At some point in our lives, we all need mercy. I believe everyone knows this, regardless of how “good” of a person we think we are. Mary Gauthier acknowledges this in her song “Mercy Now,” which is the title track from her 2005 album.
Yeah, we all could use a little mercy now
I know we don’t deserve it but we need it anyhow
We hang in the balance dangled ‘tween hell and hallowed ground
And every single one of us could use some mercy now
So what exactly is mercy, why do we need it, and how do we show it? Mercy isn’t an easy word to define. In its simplest form, mercy is compassion in action. Instead of giving his followers a definition, Jesus told a story about someone who had an enormous debt cancelled. That same person threw a peer into prison for a smaller debt that could not be repaid (Matt 18:21-35). All of us listening to the story have the same reaction: How dare you!
When we are wronged, we are placed in a position of power. We have the power to demand justice or to show mercy. The psalmist reminds us time and again of God’s mercy: “The Lord is compassionate and merciful… He does not punish us for all our sins; He does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve (Psalm 103:8, 10).” Paul affirms this by writing that “God is so rich in mercy (Eph. 2:4).” If we forget how merciful God has been with us, we will find ourselves unwilling to show mercy to those who offend us.
The power of the gospel places everyone on a level plain. No one can feel superior or inferior to another human. We realize that we are capable of committing the vilest of evils; therefore, we cannot withhold mercy from someone whose sins are different from our own. In the gospel, we see our desperate need for a merciful God. We are also blessed with opportunities to show mercy to others. We know that God is merciful, and we know that He lives within us and is transforming us to be more like Him; however, it is quite unnatural to act mercifully.
As I have reflected on what it means to show mercy, I have spent some time contemplating what Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about the merciful in the classic The Cost of Discipleship.
“They take upon themselves the distress and humiliation of others…They go out and seek all who are enmeshed in the toils of sin and guilt. No distress is too great, no sin too appalling for their pity. If any man falls into disgrace, the merciful will sacrifice their own honor to shield him, and take his shame upon themselves.”
This the question with which I wrestle: am I willing to show mercy to the most appalling sins, to carry the burdens of others, and to risk disgracing myself to protect others? If I am aware of God’s mercy toward me, the answer must be yes.