“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” Matthew 5:7 (NRS)
“Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Are you merciful? Are you moved beyond mere pity to the point of action in resolving pain and distress? This fourth beatitude, moves to an area which requires self-examination as to the type of “kingdom behavior” followers of Christ are expected to exhibit once having experienced the blessedness of mercy.
Mercy, rendered “steadfast love” in some Bible translations, denotes more than just feelings or emotions. It indicates a passionate need to relieve the situation that is causing pain to others. Mercy is a concept integral to our understanding of God and His dealings with humankind. In English translations of the Bible, God’s mercy is expressed in phrases such as “to be merciful” (Deut. 21:8), “to have mercy on” (Luke 18:38), or “to show mercy toward” (Ps. 103:11). Merciful is used to describe a key attribute of God and can be observed in both His giving of grace and in His withholding of punishment. (Lam. 3:22; Is. 4:8; Dan.9:4; Zech. 10:6)
Who are the merciful? The one who extends relief from human suffering, pain, and other distress that one may face. Jesus gave the great New Testament illustration of being merciful in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37). On his journey the Samaritan sees this poor man who has been in the hands of robbers, stops, and goes across the road to where he is lying. The others (the Levite and the Priest) have seen the man but have gone on. They may have felt compassion and pity yet they have not done anything about it. But here is a man who is merciful; he is sorry for the victim, goes across the road, dresses the wounds, takes the man with him and makes provision for him. That is being merciful. It does not mean only feeling pity; it means a great desire and indeed and endeavor, to do something to relieve the situation.
How is mercy recognized in kingdom living? God’s kingdom exists in a community that displays both forgiveness for the guilty and compassion for the suffering and needy. This is the way God demonstrated His mercy and love for us: “But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:4-5). Having experienced the mercy of God personally, believers become the means of mercy for others; mercy follows of necessity if we have truly experienced mercy. In addition, since mercy is part of God’s character and we are His children (Rom. 8:16), it is an expectation that mercy be demonstrated by those who are called by His name. There is no greater blessing than to share in God’s eternal nature through extending mercy to others.
Who shall obtain mercy? The blessedness of mercy is not mercy given by others but mercy received from God. This mercy has already been given to the believer through God’s plan of salvation. While believers act as channels of mercy to others, they concurrently enjoy unlimited access to mercy that will continue through this life into eternity (Rom. 5:1-2). In receiving God’s mercy, we experience the greatest gift—eternal life lived with the Father and the Son.