Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. – Matthew 5:7
A great Christian scholar called the Beatitudes of Jesus Christ recorded in the Gospel of Matthew the “Magna Carta of the Kingdom of God.” The thousands of people who heard Him speak were revived from within by the blessings He shared, blessings of heavenly grace and mercy.
Jesus had just called his disciples, and this address to them with the big crowd gathered was the opening of his mind and thoughts. He was burdened to equip the disciples by engraving in them the spirit and the character of the kingdom of God. He enriched them with the knowledge of the blessings of the kingdom and engraved in them the sound doctrine of the gospel. He was building up his disciples from within and delivering to them the secret of unshakable strength in facing the forces of darkness and evil.
Jesus warns his disciples to be alert against the merciless who try to weaken and destroy the kingdom of God, exhibiting cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity. These evildoers hope to overshadow God’s mercy, to keep people in bondage to fear, and to prevent them from living in the true power of God’s love.
Jesus purposefully teaches his disciples to demonstrate and embody mercy in a compassion-less society. He wants his disciples to exhibit mercy, and to teach others about the mercy of God.
It is an undeniable fact that people in our century, and all those prior to this, share the perception of an ancient Roman philosopher said to have called mercy “the disease of the soul.” The Romans glorified human power and oppressed those they had crushed beneath them. Jesus condemned these attitudes, saying:
"You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." – Matthew 5:43-48
Mercy is not self-centered concern for others. Mercy is not simply feeling compassion, but showing compassion. Mercy is not only using kind and loving words but embodying those words in action.
The Hebrew word for mercy is untranslatable because it has multiple meanings. It is closer to sympathy, as "sym" means together and "paschein" to experience or to suffer. Experiencing things together with the other person, going through what they are going through. This is precisely what many people do not try to do. Self-centeredness prevents us from experiencing mercy.
Mercy means the ability to get right inside others’ skin until we can see things with their eyes, think things with their mind, and feel things with their feelings. It is much more than an emotional wave of pity. It demands a quiet, deliberate effort of the mind and of the will. It denotes a sympathy which is not given as it were from outside, but which comes from a deliberate identification with other people until we see things as they see them and feel things as they feel them.
Without the mercy of God, we would be in bondage to sin, but through His mercy we have forgiveness. God through Jesus Christ got inside the skin of man. He came as a man, saw things with man's eyes. Paul tells us that Jesus “saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy...through the washing of rebirth and renewal through the Holy Spirit.” -Titus 3:5
God's forgiveness of our sins flows from his mercy. Jesus became the most merciful being who ever lived, as he reached out to heal the sick, restore the crippled, give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and even life to the dead. He found prostitutes, tax collectors, and outcasts and drew them into his circle of love and forgiveness because of His Mercy.
People all around us are suffering, crying, struggling, helpless, unwanted, experiencing loneliness and neglect. Mercy must be part of our life in the church. Jesus wept with the sorrowing and gave companionship to the lonely. He took little children into his arms and blessed them. He was merciful to everyone.
How can we practice and embody mercy? First, we can show mercy through physical acts, as did the Good Samaritan. We are to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the imprisoned. Second, we can show mercy in our attitudes. Mercy does not hold a grudge, harbor resentment, capitalize one another's failure or weakness, or publicize another's sin. Condemning gossip, St. Augustine said, “Whoever thinks that he is able to nibble at the life of absent friends must know that he is unworthy of this table."
Third, we can show mercy spiritually. The sensitive Christian will grieve for lost souls above all else. Jesus modeled this on the cross as he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) The disciple Steven prayed as he was stoned for his faith, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts 7:60) We bless others with God’s mercy through prayer from the depth of our heart as we ask God to touch souls.
Finally, we the most merciful thing we can do is proclaim the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. The message of mercy heralded will help our churches to grow and impact our communities spiritually.
As Jesus promised, the result of showing mercy is that we will receive mercy. It is the great truth of life that in other people we see the reflection of ourselves. If we are detached and disinterested in them, they will be detached and disinterested in us. If they see that we care, their hearts will respond in caring. Give and you will receive from God.
To be “blessed” as Jesus spoke of it means “a state of blessing.” We are already blessed by mercy as His disciples. Let us embody Jesus Christ and His mercy wherever we are. Let others see the power of mercy demonstrated through our actions. May God continue to bless us as we bless others through our local churches, in our communities, and in our ministries.
- Rev. Berdj Djambazian
Minister to the Union