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This is the sixth in a series of post on the beatitudes, here are the other posts in this series:
Matthew 5:7 says:
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
I love the way Kent Hughes explains the more in-depth meaning of the original language here. He writes, “The basic ida of the Greek word translated merciful is “to give help to the wretched, to relieve the miserable” (46, Sermon on the Mount).
As Christians, as miserable sinners who have been relieved by the blood of Jesus, we are called to relieve the miserable and comfort them with the unconditional love we only know because it’s been shown to us.
But what is mercy, really? A lot of times, we think it’s just the same thing as grace. But it’s not. Grace and mercy are different, and though the difference is subtle, I think it’s important.
Here is the difference between grace and mercy in the simplest way I’ve heard it:
Grace is giving someone something they do not deserve.
Mercy is not giving someone something they do deserve.
Grace is taking your fifth grader to get a Frosty from Wendy’s even if he didn’t get all As on his report card.
Mercy is not taking your teenager’s car privileges away after she breaks curfew for the third night in a row.
Your fifth grader didn’t deserve the reward, but you gave it to him anyway (grace), and you could have taken your teen’s car away because she broke the rules, but you didn’t (mercy).
Now that we’ve established the difference, what does mercy actually look like?
Mercy in its simplest form, like I wrote before, is not giving someone what they do deserve. But truthfully, it can be a lot more complex than that. Forgiveness, compassion, justice, and all sorts of biblical qualities are bound up in the fullness of mercy.
Biblically, mercy is most clearly seen in the Good Samaritan event. Look at the interaction between Jesus and the law expert following the story:
Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37)
Whether or not you’re a Christian, think of how the Bible talks about Jesus saving people from their sins. The greatest act of mercy in the world is Jesus alleviating the burden of sin, and the greatest act of grace in the world is replacing the burden of sin with the gift of eternal life.
The Christian must be motivated to acts of mercy by the mercy he or she has been shown by Jesus in their salvation.
Matthew 5:7 says that those who are merciful are blessed and will be shown mercy. But brothers and sisters in Christ, we must not be merciful only because mercy awaits us. We must be merciful because mercy has given us life.
Mercy in the wild is seen when a follower of Christ is showing glimpses of the same mercy he or she has already received. The mercy that leads to new life fuels us for the mercy we’ll find in eternal life.