Blessed Are the Merciful
Standard;Mt 5:7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
If you were the only person in the world, the first four beatitudes would suffice. You don't need anyone else to experience your own spiriutally bankruptcy, or your own personal sorrow over your sin, or to meekly surrender to God, or to hunger and thirst for the righteousness.
The first four beattitudes could be called me-attitudes, the next four could be called we-attitudes. These next four require interaction with other people. Mercy, sincerity, (purity of motive) peacemaking, and persecution by necessity, are expressed through involvement with other people.
Today, we will zero in on mercy. Mercy requires action toward other people. Just feeling sorry for others and not doing anything about it is not mercy. Jesus didn't say, “blessed are the apathetic.” I'm sure the Levite and the priest felt sorry for the guy laying in the ditch, but they had places to go to, things to do, people to see, laws to obey. Besides, someone else will surely be along to help the poor fella.
Just as I'm sure Pastor Matz felt sorry for the guy wrestling with the mattress, trying to haul it up a flight of stairs as he put the blinders on and drove by on his way to run his errands. There is a huge gap between feeling sorry for someone and actually doing something about it.
Let's begin as we usually do with a paraphrase of this passage that matches up with the original Greek:
How fortunate are the actively compassionate, for God is actively compassionate toward them.
It's interesting to note there is a strikingly similar passage in the Old Testament found in 2 Samuel 22:26, “With the merciful you show yourself merciful.” God will show mercy to the merciful, on an ongoing basis and in ways we might not even see.
In the NT, we have the classic example of Cornelius. A devout man who prayed to God and gave alms. (showed mercy) this almsgiving came up as a memorial before God. The motive was right and God took note and extended mercy to Cornelius and his family by sending Peter to them in a miraculous fashion to share the Gospel. (The merciful shall receive mercy!)
What is mercy? What does it mean to be actively compassionate? Now I know this may sound gross and disgusting, but the idea of compassion in the Greek is “yearning bowels.” There is no better way to put it. This type of mercy that comes to us as a grace from God prompts us to find an outlet to express it.
God in His mercy and wisdom has placed many “porta potties” along the road for each and every one of us to relieve these yearnings. It could be in the simple form of giving someone a cup of cold water on a hot day to holding the hands of dying aids patients in Africa. In this world, there is no shortage of opportunities to express compassion, and every time we fail to respond to these God-given yearnings to express mercy.....we, in a spiritual sense........, messing our pants.
Ooooooh, what stinks around here? Is there anyone of us who can honestly say.....not me?
We've all missed our fair share of opportunities to express mercy haven't we? Thankfully God forgives and keeps on giving us new opportunities. His mercies are new every morning and so are the opportunities presented to us to express them.
It seems to me that the church in America, generally speaking, is walking around in a lot of loaded diapers, and the frightening part of it, is we're all getting used to the smell. We are like a mother who dresses her child to play outside in the winter and after she has put the last mitten on, the child says, “Mommy. I have to go to the bathroom, and by the time she gets all the clothes off, it's too late.
We in the church have so bound ourselves up in the trappings of this world, that by the time we remove them ….it's too late. We miss the opportunity. We have the trappings of debt, (personal and corporal) busyness, churchianity, (routine) materialism, selfishness, and even self-righteousness, that prevent us from being the merciful people God has called us to be.
“Be merciful, even as your Father in heaven is merciful. (Luke 6:36)
Could we here, at Living Word at least seek to move up from diapers to training pants in the area of extending mercy?
A couple of Wednesday's ago, K.C., Jim, and I met to seek to plot a future course for Living Word. Jim read Isaiah 58 in it's entirety as a springboard for our discussion. This chapter is loaded with challenges from God to extend mercy and great promises of mercy for those who seek to respond to His challenges.
As I read some of these, see if you can see the connection between extending mercy to others and receiving mercy from God:
Is 58:6,7 - “Is this not the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked to cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh? (Who is your own flesh? Husbands and wives become one flesh. Along with parents and children. Unfortunately many times the ones closest to us are denied the mercy they need and we miss the promised mercy from God in our own lives.
Okay, that's some of the mercy, we are called to show.
Now some promised mercy from God:
“Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call and the Lord will answer; you shall cry; and He will say; “Here I am.” You rang! This is the mercy of answered prayer! Wondering about a lack of answered prayer? Maybe it's a lack of exrtended mercy on our part!
Isaiah continues with more mercy challenges for us:
If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted.......
“then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.”
Oh yes, How fortunate are the actively compassionate, for God is actively compassionate toward them.
I mean, don't you want some of that from God? What believing paresnt doesn't want the future generations raised up in faith?
And again, we see a logical progression in the beatitudes because those who hunger and thirst for righteousness shall be satisfied. And when we are satisfied with earthly food, it won't be long before nature calls....same thing with this spiritual food of righteousness. It won't be long before we are called upon to express it. Because mercy is, the inward righteousness granted by God, let loose through the outer man. The new creation in Christ.
As the Concordia Self-Study Bible Commentary says, “ The life (the righteousness) we draw from God makes us merciful.”
Extending mercy to others in meeting physical needs is evidence that we understand our own received spiritual mercy from God, AND it is a visible preaching of the gospel without using words. God has had mercy on us through His Son Jesus. The cross is the totality of mercy and it is this mercy that opened the fountain of grace.
One of many great examples of mercy is illustrated to us by Jesus in the account of the Good Samaritan.
Lu 10:30 Then Jesus answered and said: "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
31 "Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
32 "Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.
33 "But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion.
34 "So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
35 "On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.'
36 "So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?"
37 And he said, "He who showed mercy on him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."
In this account of the Good Samaritan, unsaved humanity are the ones lying in the ditch, (notice the absence of clothing, either not having the robe of righteousness given in baptism, or forfeiting it because of a lack of faith) roughed up and robbed of salvation by the devil, the world, and the flesh, (Jesus said he had fallen among robbers (pl) The Law and churchianity (the Levite and the priest) were no help to him, but then Jesus came along in the form of the Good Samaritan (the Gospel) and had compassion on him.
He extended mercy to him and took care of his immediate need for forgiveness, and then made provision for the victims further care through the two denari, which represent the means of grace....the Word and the Sacraments.
And what was His admonition to us? We are to be like the Samartian, purveyors of mercy.
As true sons, we are to be like our Father who says in Jer 3:12 “I am merciful declares the Lord.” Just looking up the word “merciful” and it's usages in Scripture. I count 12 times where the mercifulness of God is asserted. How can we say we are His children if we withhold mercy from others?
The truth is, we aren't. It's not that we are saved by expressing mercy, it's that in expressing mercy we are telling God, that we really get it. That we really have received His gift of mercy. Nowhere in Scripture is this made more plain than in Matthew 18, where mercy is forever connected with forgiveness.
Mt 18:21 Then Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" 22 Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
23 "Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 "And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 "But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made.
26 "The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, 'Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.' 27 "Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, ( deep yearning from the bowels) released him, and forgave him the debt.
28 "But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, 'Pay me what you owe!'
29 "So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.'
30 "And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt.
31 "So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done.
32 "Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me.
33 'Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?'
34 "And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
35 "So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses."
And once again we see that the major theme of this Sermon on the Mount is the necessity of receiving God's forgivness and extending that forgiveness to others.
Nothing says, “I forgive you,” more than, “here, ;et me help you.”
Mercy is treating others with compassion without asking questions about their worthiness to receive it. Your treatment of them is not linked to their purity of life. In that sense your acts of mercy flow to them out of forgiveness. You are not holding anything against them as you yearn to help them because they are needy, not because they deserve it. Mercy starts with the household of faith but must move beyond the walls of the church.
Does that mean we overlook or wink at sin? Of course not! That would be the most merciless thing we could do! Jude 21-23 says, “Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life, (I believe these are the opportunities to express mercy, the “porta potties” that we find on the road that leads to eternal life.) And have mercy on those who doubt; (be merciful to those with weak faith) save others by snatching them out of the fire; (give them the gospel) to others show mercy with fear, (give them the Law) hating even the garment stained by the flesh.”
Hate the sin, love the sinner.
“Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, COMPASSION, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another, and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. “ (Col 3:12,13)
God has not withheld His compassion from you or I, He didn't ask us if we were worthy to receive His mercy. Therefore let us not withhold compassion from others. Let us render physical aid when and where we can, and let us lend spiritual aid as we speak the truth in love.
Having tasted of the mercy of God, do you not want more? Then believe what is stated in this beatitude: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.