“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
This is the first of the Beatitudes that may come close to making sense to modern Westerners. However that is because we really do not understand. This almost sounds like Jesus was saying, “If you are nice to people, they will be nice to you.” There is some truth to that. But it misses the reality of human nature and society. The world is not made up of nice people who will always be nice to you. If you only know those kinds of people your life is indeed sheltered.
I recently heard a testimony of a man who shortly after coming to faith in Christ heard Brother Andrew, God's Smuggler, talking with a prominent Near Eastern Sheikh who was ordering the death of 8 Israelis because 4 Palestinians had been killed. Brother Andrew ask him, “But where does forgiveness come in?” The sheikh answered, “That is only for those who deserve it.”
Much closer to home, I heard a woman tell about a man in her child’s Public School who mistreated and lied about her daughter. This was a horrible time for their family. Later she got some perspective on the events because the man was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She said, “I can forgive him because we found out his behavior was affected by the tumor. But I can't forgive other School Employees, and even friends in our church, who believed him when he said those things, even though they had known our daughter all her life.”
I understand her hurt, and why she said what she did, but that was not what Jesus taught. Christian Mercy does not end with those who are excusable. Later in this same chapter Jesus tells us we are to be like our Heavenly Father who sends sunshine and rain on the just and the unjust. We are even to love our enemies with the love of God.
What some of you are already thinking is important to understand. It is not true that your enemy will show you mercy, if you show him compassion. What then did Jesus mean? Like all of the Beatitudes this looks beyond the rewards given by other humans on this Earth. Jesus was pointing to the ultimate mercy of our Heavenly Father.
Toward the end of Mark 11 Jesus gives us one the most powerful promises of praying in faith. And then in verse 25 he extends what he says about faith with these words.
“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
Jesus clearly links trusting God to forgive our own sins with forgiving those who have wronged us.
Matthew 5 concludes with the words, “Be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” How in the world are we ever going to obey this command? The only way we could do it is through the gospel. When we receive Jesus Christ, we receive His mercy, His righteousness, and His forgiveness for all who who receive Him. Are you striving and praying to show His mercy toward those around you? We receive His power in our lives to love and forgive as He forgives. But we will not know our final Christ-like perfection until we stand before the Father in His forgiveness and grace.