The next relational blessing is related to meekness. v7–
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
I think you can see how these 8 qualities are all connected. Christians ought to progress in all 8 of these areas simultaneously. If you are poor in spirit, if you understand how impoverished you are, if you are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, if you long to be right before God and you long for the world to be right and just and fair with the same consistency and intensity that you long for physical food and water, if you are pure in heart, if Christ is everything to you and you put all your eggs in one basket, if you are mourning over your sins… THEN, meekness and mercy will flow out from your life. And especially, these last two are hard to separate. A meek person will also be merciful. Show me a merciful person and I bet they’re also meek.
Notice that for mercy, there is a reciprocal relationship. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. If you are constantly asking God to have mercy on you, then it won’t be hard to extend mercy to others. Conversely, if you are merciful toward others, God will be more inclined to be merciful toward you.
Why do we find it difficult to be merciful? Why is forgiveness so difficult? It’s because people legitimately sin against us. They hurt us. They wrong us. And we’re not talking about getting cut off on the freeway. Some hurts are the result of years and years, decades of abuse. It’s not easy to forgive. And the worst part about it, the people who sin against us often don’t even recognize their sin, or even if they do, they don’t confess their sins. We think, if only that person admitted what they did, then the floodgates of forgiveness would come gushing from my heart because I am so ready and willing to forgive. And that might be your heart, but you wait. And you wait. And you wait. Years pass by and there is no confession of sin from the person who wronged you. And the result of all that waiting is a bitter heart that is quick to condemn and slow to forgive.
We live in a fallen world filled with sinners who don’t even realize they are sinning against us or they are too proud to admit their sin. So the longer you and I live, doesn’t the list of people who sin against us grow longer and longer? Therefore, the older you are, it is likely that you will find being merciful or being forgiving increasingly difficult. Esp. the deep scars. Those closest to us who wronged us or let us down. Perhaps for decades. And the maddening thing is that these offenders don’t say a word.
Being merciful is one of the hardest things to do. How can we be merciful? First, you have to see how much mercy you have been shown by a Holy God. How much and how often God has forgiven you. Remember, mercy is a reciprocal relationship. One who shows mercy is giving proof to the fact that he or she understands the tremendous mercy received from God. For a true Christian, when others sin against you, you have the supernatural ability to show mercy. I say supernatural ability because you cannot generate mercy on your own. You can’t be merciful by listening to sermons and Bible studies and attending seminars about mercy. It is impossible for religious church-goers to be merciful simply through their attendance and service to the church. You can serve in the mercy ministry, you can feed the poor and visit the elderly and still you may not have a clue about being merciful to others.
Receiving mercy and thereby dispensing mercy is at the core of what it means to be a Christian. This kind of ability occurs supernaturally when Christ’s mercy and forgiveness in your life becomes personal. Not a theory, but something you experience firsthand. Firsthand knowledge. We call this salvation. And we are not shown mercy just once the moment we are saved. It needs to be an ongoing part of our walk with Christ. God shows us mercy in Christ. He forgives us again and again because we sin again and again. And the Holy Spirit enables us to be merciful and to forgive others. That’s the pattern–mercy in, mercy out.
Even those who never ask for forgiveness, we can forgive. Imagine if Christ only forgave the sins that you and I confessed. Then, we’d be in a heap of trouble. In the words of Jesus, as he hung on the cross, he said, Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing. Is that a prayer for unbelievers only? No, believers need that prayer as well. We are often in that camp. We sin and we do not know what we are doing. Or we sin knowingly and we don’t ask for forgiveness. But the good news is that God still forgives us in Christ even when we don’t know what we’re doing.
The world doesn’t know how to forgive because they haven’t experienced forgiveness for themselves. The best advice the world can muster when you’ve been wronged is, you got to move on. Forget about it. Time will heal the wounds. Take your mind off of it. Distract yourself.
We all know those are lies. Ask anyone who has been seriously wounded. Hear them share about their past. The incident could have been 30 years ago, but the bitterness will be as fresh as if it happened yesterday. The world does not know forgiveness. The world cannot forgive. The world is unable to forgive. Only one who has been shown mercy by God can extend mercy to others.
Without Christ, life is like a ledger. You wronged me. I’m putting it in my ledger. That’s one strike against you. Three strikes and I am out of here. This is how relationships in the world work. There’s no mercy there. It’s not surprising that when men and women age, they become grumpy and have few friends because they functioned in this system of keeping a record of wrongs.
Only Jesus can free us from the prison of unforgiveness. Like the parable of the unmerciful servant, a servant owed a certain master a ridiculously large amount but his debt was canceled. And instead of becoming transformed by this act of extravagant mercy, the servant turned around and demanded that a guy who owed him a few bucks pay him back immediately or be punished. This is the portrait of someone who is unmerciful. For the believer, we have been pardoned a trillion dollar debt. Do you find yourself squabbling over a few bucks that somebody owes you? A family member, a friend, a coworker, a boss who wrongs you and mistreats you. The mistreatment could have been heinous, but compared to what we did to God, it’s like a few bucks. Our sin against God is so immense that it cost God the life of His own Son. Our forgiveness was that costly. In comparison, what we do to one another amounts to spare change in our pockets. That’s the idea.
Only one who receives mercy from God can be truly merciful. Nothing proves more clearly that we have been forgiven by God than our own readiness to forgive one another. To forgive and to be forgiven, to show mercy and to receive mercy: these are inseparable.