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Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” - Matthew 5:7

The mercy which we have to offer others is often rather messy. As it is used in Matthew, mercy is best described as practicing compassion in tangible ways, such as giving to the needy.[1] While we would like to show those in need the same kind of compassion which God lavishes upon us, ours is usually tainted. We may be willing to help those in need, but our pity toward them is mixed with revulsion at those things which make them pitiable. After giving someone a helping hand, we may find ourselves searching for hand sanitizer.

This is not the kind of mercy that God has toward His children. His heart toward us is filled with kindness and love, and His heart does not change as He sees us in our sorry state.[2]  While we must struggle to remind ourselves of God’s mercy now, we have the hope that we will one day be welcomed into God’s kingdom where that mercy will be on full display. In the meantime, as citizens of that kingdom, we are tasked with practicing that mercy in our lives. It is alright for us to admit that such mercy is no easy task. Yet, such a radical departure from what comes to us naturally as fallen human beings is precisely what proves that the kingdom of God is something to be desired (Matt. 5:16).

Mercy and the Kingdom

The Bible teaches that our eternity will not be spent in the clouds, but on an earth transformed by the power of God’s redemptive kindness (Rev. 21:1-4). This hope is presented in the words of comfort in the first half of Matthew’s record of the beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-6). These verses discuss the ways the repentant respond to evil in both the world and in their hearts and promise that righteousness will one day be established. Those who have put their hope in this future kingdom of compassion will display the same patterns which they will eventually benefit from. The second half of the beatitudes promises that when God establishes His kingdom, He will reward the repentant for exhibiting the characteristics of the kingdom in their lives.[3]

During Jesus’ ministry, acts of mercy were directly connected with the proclamation of the coming kingdom. Jesus displayed the goodness of God as He healed the sick and ate with sinners (Matt. 9:9-13, 20:30-34). As He and His disciples announced that the kingdom was at hand, they demonstrated what the kingdom would be like by miraculously curing all sorts of ailments (Matt. 4:23, 9:35, 10:7) Jesus proved to the world that He is its rightful king through His acts of mercy: helping the poor, healing both physical and spiritual disease, and forgiving sinners. Of all the ways we can receive and show mercy, we may find forgiveness to be the most difficult. However, Christ’s life and teaching reveal a passion for forgiveness which He expects His followers to share (Matt. 6:12-15, 18:21-35). We show the world that we are indeed citizens of Christ’s kingdom through our own acts of mercy, reaching out to others with the same love and forgiveness that God has poured out to us (Matt. 5:13-16).

The Result of Our Hope

As we go about our everyday lives, let us not forget what our future looks like. We wait in eager anticipation for the day when God’s righteous rule will be established over the whole earth. He will heal us of every physical disease and pattern of sin which continues to plague us, reversing the damage which sin and death have dealt to creation and bringing about life and righteousness (Isa. 61; 65:17-25).

In the meantime, we are treated to small glimpses of what is to come as we benevolently meet the various needs of others. Whether they are in need of financial assistance or simply acceptance, we have plenty of opportunities to show others the same kind of mercy which God has for us. While we may find such acts difficult to perform, we know that we will be richly rewarded for our efforts. Whatever we do will pale in comparison to what God has done and will continue to do for us. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.


Footnotes

[1] See Matt. 6:1-4 which discusses giving to the needy. The word translated in 6:2 as “giving to the needy” comes from the same root as the word translated as “mercy” in 5:7. BDAG translates the word used in 5:7 as “pertaining to being concerned about people in their need,” and the similar word used in 6:2 as an “exercise of benevolent goodwill,” or “that which is benevolently given to meet a need.”

[2] For more on the nature of God’s pity towards sinners, see Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly.

[3] The righteousness which Christians display is a result of God’s work as He changes their heart by the power of the Holy Spirit (Phil. 2:13, Gal. 5:22-23, Eph. 2:10).

Ron Allen grew up in Southwest Wisconsin and graduated from Emmaus Bible College in 2021. He is currently pursuing a ThM at Dallas Theological Seminary.

Posted by Ron Allen

Ron Allen grew up in Southwest Wisconsin and graduated from Emmaus Bible College in 2021. He is currently pursuing a ThM at Dallas Theological Seminary.

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