Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The Beatitudes: The Merciful

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)

What is it to be merciful? Thomas Watson (1620-1686) put it this way:
“What is meant by mercifulness? I answer, it is a melting disposition whereby we lay to heart the miseries of others and are ready on all occasions to be instrumental for their good.” 
Mercy involves sharing in the afflictions of other with sympathy and compassion. It is something that begins on the inside. The opposite of mercy is a hard heart. The blessed disciple is not the disciple who is detached from the world, who cares for himself by distancing himself from the suffering of others. The blessed disciple is the one who feels for others, who has compassion on others and desires to help them. It is provoked by the afflictions and needs of others in body and soul. This disposition results in action. It leads you to help others and forgive others. It leads to charitable giving, charitable opinions of others, care for the sick and injured, hospitality, encouraging words, and a helping hand.

Consider the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37). The priest and the Levite hardened their hearts, walking on the other side of the road. What made the good Samaritan different? When he saw the half dead man, he had compassion (v. 33) and then showed him mercy (v. 37) by caring for his wounds, bringing him to the inn, and giving money for his care. As Jesus said at the end of that parable: "You go, and do likewise."

Why are the merciful blessed? They are blessed because "they shall receive mercy." Those who do not forgive, will not be forgiven (6:14-15). Those who have no mercy for their fellow disciples will be shown no mercy on the day of judgement (25:31-46). But those who forgive others and show mercy to others are those who will be forgiven and shown mercy by God. God will pardon them even in this life as soon as they turn to Christ with faith and repentance. God will show them His fatherly favor and compassion even now - providing for their needs, directing all things for their good, giving them strength and deliverance. He will also acquit them in the day of judgement, passing over their sins for Christ’s sake and praising and rewarding their good deeds, delivering them from all their misery.

Are you merciful? Do you find yourself having compassion on those who suffer? Does this “melting disposition” motivate you to be helpful to them?

In what ways can you be more merciful? As a disciple of Jesus, you ought to be merciful. Do not insulate yourself from the suffering of others, especially the suffering of your brothers and sisters in Christ. Call out to God for a more merciful heart. Let not your heart be hardened. Show mercy by encouraging the weak, evangelizing the lost, patiently correcting the wayward, forgiving one another, practicing hospitality and sharing your selves and stuff, giving charitably and helping those in need.

If you are a merciful disciple, then take heart! Even if your acts of mercy seem small and pitiful, you shall be shown the great and marvelous mercy of God. Blessed are you, the merciful, for you will receive comfort in weakness, help in troubled times, deliverance from evil, and favor in the day of judgement.


For prior posts in this series, see:
1. "The Beatitudes: Introduction"
2. "The Beatitudes: The Poor in Spirit"
3. "The Beatitudes: Those Who Mourn"

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