This week in my daily devotions I have been considering the subject of mercy. The main focus of these devotional readings ( http://www.ifequip.com/category/beatitudes) has been Matthew 5:7.
Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.
God blesses those people who are merciful. They will be treated with mercy!
Blessed are those who show mercy. They will be treated mercifully.
Happy are the kind and merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.
They are blessed who show mercy to others, for God will show mercy to them.
Looking at this one verse, in several different translations shows two clear points. A person will be blessed, and find joy and happiness in the act of being merciful, and God will be merciful to those who grant mercy to others.
To whom am I to be merciful towards? Should my mercy be extended only to those who have earned it? Is there a certain type of character to whom I am to be merciful? Are there certain types that I should deny mercy to?
I know of only one method of obtaining any kind of answer to my many questions on this subject. I go to Jesus and observe Him.
Jesus describes mercy to us in a parable about a king and two debtors. The king forgave the debtor who owed him an enormous sum, a sum so great that it could not be paid back, but the one whose debt was forgiven by the king, ran right out and demanded a paltry sum be paid back right away by a man who owed him money. This man could not pay and begged for time, but the one the king forgave would not allow it and cast him into prison. When news of this reached the king he was very angry, and ordered the man whose debt he had forgiven to be cast into prison until the very last penny had been paid because he who had been forgiven so much, had no compassion and no mercy upon his fellow man who owed a tiny sum in comparison.
Jesus was clearly merciful to the poor. He stopped by the roadside many times to heal beggars afflicted with leprosy, blindness, and lame. So it is clear that I am to be merciful to those who suffer from poverty or are afflicted by handicap or disease even if those handicaps or diseases are deplorable to society. (look up leprosy during the time of Christ.)
Jesus extended mercy to the Roman soldier and restored to him his child. Rome was the oppressor in that day, the symbol of a tyrannical government. This did not stop Christ from showing mercy. I am to be merciful to those who oppose me politically, morally and to those who work in support of government and programs that oppose me politically and morally.
Jesus was merciful to tax collectors, who were hated and despised by Jewish society. They were in a sense considered traitors. By their actions they betrayed their people and assisted the tyrannical government in oppressing them. Yet Christ demonstrated mercy to them. I am to be merciful to traitors and liars and cheats.
Jesus was merciful to outcasts from society. Women of ill repute, lepers who were considered to be unclean and untouchable. He even touched the untouchable. So I am to be merciful to the untouchables of society.
Jesus was merciful to the criminal hanging next to Him, one who according to scripture has earlier been mocking along with everyone else. A criminal who could do nothing at all for Christ, who could only call out "remember me, when You come into Your kingdom." Jesus was merciful. I am to be merciful to people without regard for what they can do for me, or have done for me, and regardless of their social stature.
And last, but not least, in fact the most profound; Jesus was merciful to me! To the one who openly opposed Him, mocked Him, mocked His people, mocked His word, to the one who broke every commandment, to the one who did not extend mercy, who hated, who reviled, who stirred up trouble, who lied, cheated, stole, murdered with my words, to the one that did nothing at all, not one tiny thing to deserve mercy, to the one who earned and fully paid for condemnation with thoughts, words and deeds, HE EXTENDED MERCY. If He, in His outrageous grace, can extend mercy to me, then I should and must endeavor with all of my might to extend mercy to everyone.
Now to some this is an unthinkable thing. But I think the distress comes from the understanding of what mercy is and how we go about extending it. Mercy does not automatically mean that we dismiss deeds committed by persons. Should someone commit a heinous crime, and murder another, being merciful to this person does not mean excusing their crimes, nor does it mean setting them free from the consequences of that crime. Perhaps mercy to this person would be to pray for them, to still see them as a living, breathing person, to see them as redeemable, to perhaps visit them in prison, or write to them.
I think that extending mercy to all might become easy were we able to always see the humanity in another, even one who is opposed to us, maybe even hates us, or to one who has done the unthinkable, the awful, the terrible. In order to see the humanity in others I believe we have to see the capacity for inhumanity within us all.
There are those who murder with their hands, taking the life of another unjustly and without cause. Then there are those who murder with their lips, defiling the character, judging and condemning another, ruining their life, their peace and their reputation and refusing to extend any possibility of redemption. Both are murder in God's eyes.
Okay, so I am to be merciful. I am clear on that, the next question is how. How do I extend mercy to the untouchables? Right now, in today's world there exists a group of persons who are hell bent to destroy us. Were I in their hands the most grievous torture would be enacted upon me, and I would most likely die, probably with my head cut off. We have all seen the countless videos and read the stories of the multitude of people murdered by the hands of Islamic terrorists. The fleshly me wants an eye for an eye, or in truth I want a head for an eye. My flesh screams out to nuke every last Islamic country that holds even a thread of terrorism within it into the stone age. My flesh cries out, assemble the armies and march upon them and bring destruction to every last living thing that stands in our path. But my soul cries out something different. I have to listen carefully, for I cannot hear it for the boiling blood and pounding heart of my flesh, but I pause, I consider, I remember the things I have been learning about mercy and I know that my cry for vengeance and destruction is not the cry of my soul. My soul cries for peace. My soul prays for the spirit of God to be poured out upon the Muslim people, be they terrorist or normal hard working folk, my soul cries for the eyes of those committing evil to be opened, for their hearts to be deeply burdened for the atrocities they have and are committing. My soul cries for the hate to stop, for the mercy of God to reside in the hearts of all men. My soul cries for peace on earth and good will to all.
And I hear that still small voice saying "yes child", "pray for them, pray for this world, pray for grace, pray for mercy, pray for peace, and be a light."
What does the Lord require of me? "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8