“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” Matthew 5:7
The first four beatitudes look towards God, the next four toward people. These discuss virtues which mark the godly as blessed in their interactions with others. We all come across those with a heightened sense of spiritual connection to God but behave poorly towards those around them. It’s a surprise to many people to find out that their personal relationships and interactions with others has an impact on their relationship with God. Most of the time it is, “Just between me and the Lord.” Meanwhile they wonder whats wrong in their life when it’s the plain fact that they may doing acts of piety with great care (prayer, fasting, study), they are snobbish, prideful, hateful, bitter towards others and God won’t bless those foul attitudes. Sure, your relationship isn’t dependent on others and how they treat you but your relationship with God will certainly be weak if you have the wrong approach in your dealings with people.
In this verse I think Jesus is laying the foundation to how we are to approach all people. This “mercy” is not mere mercy as it is occasionally found among men generally but mercy that grows out of our personal experience with the mercy of God. God’s mercy toward should make us likewise merciful. Mercy itself is pictured in the scripture with a person not receiving what they deserved, mainly judgment. As sinners we receive mercy from God because He does not place the judgment on us that we rightly deserve. In fact, He forgives us of all of our sins against Him. Instead of judgment He gives us grace (unearned favor).
God’s forgiveness toward becomes the foundation in how it is possible for us to show mercy toward others. Ephesians 4:32 says this, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you,” and is also similarly found in Colossians 3:13. In this same sermon, Jesus connects our forgiveness of others with our own forgiveness with God as he explains the Lord’s prayer, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Mt. 6:14). This part of the sermon helps us to understand this current beatitude. I am not suggesting that we gain salvation by forgiving others. We only receive salvation when we become meek before Christ and seek forgiveness. But what we see the scripture sharing with us is that a proof of our own forgiveness is that we also receive a forgiving spirit.
Many times we find it hard to forgive and we make many excuses for not forgiving somebody for something they did or said. We have a strong basis on why it is so important to have mercy and forgiveness. We have found it from God for our sins against Him. We try to minimalize our wrongs before God when we compare them to the wrongs that others have done to us. All the while forgetting we were under the judgment of God and if it weren’t for the grace and mercy of God would be suffering the wrath of God. No matter how little sin we feel we had acquired, we were still on the bad side of judgment. So, no matter what a person has done or said, your sin before was greater and the judgment He would bring on us was superior.
Showing mercy and forgiveness toward others should be easier done than it is. Our passions and feelings are powerful things in our life that without the transforming grace of God can trap us in bitterness and hate. With the foundation that God forgave us of sin and we should in turn forgive others, we can begin to practice mercy and experience that transformation. Mercy carries with it the idea of compassion for those who are in need. Ideally, we show mercy to those that have wronged us because they stand in need forgiveness. Still, there are many other ways that we can show acts of mercy. It won’t take a very long trip down our roads till we see people standing in need. We who then are able to carry the burdens and help others should do all we can to show merciful compassion on those around. For God has done the same to us while we were in our sins.