How can we be merciful? First, you have to see how much sin you have been pardoned by a Holy God. Second, you have to see that the same sins that you see in others are in you.
Take for example a sin like sexual harassment. Let’s say the person guilty of sexual harassment is genuinely penitent, you have 2 reactions. You have the men saying, come on, you got to cut the guy some slack. And you have the women saying, this guy needs to be punished.
Why? Because the guys know that the same tendency is in them. Meanwhile, the women say, I’ve never done that, I’ve been the object of that kind of treatment, but I’ve never done that. All guys need to be taught a lesson. One side is understanding because they can see themselves falling into this kind of behavior and the other side is completely unforgiving because they’ve never been tempted in this way. When you recognize that all the worst sins that you condemn in others are in you, then you will be merciful.
John Stott, a British author, states it like this –
“For to be meek is to acknowledge to others that we are sinners; to be merciful is to have compassion on others, for they are sinners too.” ~John Stott
Meek people can admit their sin to others. Merciful people are compassionate, or merciful, because they understand that I’m a sinner, you’re a sinner, we’re all sinners. So let’s be merciful to one another.
In other words, with any group of people, we are sinners and give it enough time and we will sin against one another. Even within the church. How many churches split over small issues because we forget to be merciful to one another.
How do you respond when people sin against you? Are you merciful? This is a key difference between a religious person and a true born-again disciple of Christ. Like with meekness, a religious person who is trying to live out his faith from his own effort will never be able to be merciful. It is humanly impossible to be merciful on our own effort. Only one who has been touched by the mercy of God can show mercy to others when they are sinned against. Mercy is something that is generated from the Spirit of God. Mercy is the byproduct of a genuine spiritual encounter where a transaction has taken place. You are forgiven by God and in your heart, God makes a deposit and makes your heart more forgiving than it was before. It’s a spiritual transaction.
You might have read the CNN article a couple of weeks ago about Drew Manning. He’s a fitness trainer to the max. He was so disciplined in his exercise regimen and in his eating habits that he would really look down on people who were overweight. He said, obese people are blaming their genes for their obesity, but they’re just making excuses for their laziness. Obviously, this is not a good mentality to have as a trainer because he was constantly frustrated at his clients.
He thought, why couldn’t others be more like me? He was extremely critical until he deliberately gained 70 lbs. He went from 190 lbs to about 260 lbs in 6 months. His purpose was to see life from the shoes of his clients.
When he weighed 190 lbs, he was constantly on the move. He was energetic. He felt good. He was motivated. When he hit 260, he was lethargic, he became inactive. More than that, he saw his mood change, and his emotions became negative. He didn’t engage his wife and his kids like he used to. Mentally, he became lazy and just wanted to be a couch potato. Of course, I’m sure this was somewhat of a gimmick because he spent the next 6 months losing all 70 lbs and now he has a book and a website and he was interviewed on all these TV shows. But the point is well taken, it wasn’t until he saw life from the shoes of the people he was trying to help that he became “merciful” toward them.
As believers, we have a head start compared to Mr. Manning. We don’t have to get into the shoes of others when they sin against us. Why? Because we’re all in the same shoes. We’re spiritually overweight. We’re often spiritually unhealthy. We’re sick. The disease called sin is eating us alive.
Only Jesus is healthy. He’s the fitness trainer. We follow Christ and none other. He is sinless and yet he’s the most merciful and meek person who ever lived. The rest of us are in the same shoes. We’re all sinners. What do sinners do? They sin against one another. We’re all poor in spirit. We’re all running on empty and always hungry and thirsty for righteousness because things are never quite right. We’re all lacking purity of heart. Our hearts are divided. We’re all apathetic when we should be mourning over our sins. We’re all in the same boat. Shouldn’t this common reality make us meek and merciful toward one another?
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
If you are meek, the world might call you a fool, but God says, you’re blessed. If you are merciful, God says, you’re blessed. How do you know if you are blessed by God? Are you meek? Are you merciful? How do you know if you are meek and merciful? Examine your relationships. What do others say about you? Are you meek toward others? When you are criticized, do you lash out or do you hold your tongue? Do you lose it or do you practice self-control? Are you merciful when others sin against you? It’s our relationships that reveal whether or not you and I possess these qualities. That’s why we need church. If we live alone on an island with Wilson, we’re all saints. But when we rub lives, it will become readily apparent how much meekness and mercy we need to be the body of Christ. I pray that our church can grow increasingly in these qualities as we relate to one another as those who have experienced the tremendous, ongoing grace and mercy and forgiveness of God in Christ.