“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. MT 5:7
Mercy is “compassion to one in need or helpless distress, or in debt and without claim to favourable treatment” (Trench).
Mercy is an attribute of God, as Jesus showed when questioned about eating with sinners:
“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:12-13
Jesus viewed sinners with compassion as those who were suffering from sickness.
Not only should we view others with compassion, but should remember God’s incredible mercy to us as Jesus points out in MT 18:
“Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’” (32-33)
“[Mercy] is called into exercise when we contemplate the wondrous grace, pity, and long-suffering of God towards such unworthy wretches as ourselves.” – A W Pink
When their father died, Joseph’s brothers feared he’d take revenge on them for them selling him into slavery.
His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. Genesis 50:18-21
Joseph was merciful to his brothers because he knew a sovereign God turned their sin to blessings. Rather than exacting justice, he comforted them and treated them kindly.
When we sow mercy we’ll reap it: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Once an irresponsible young guy scratched the top of my beautiful accoustic guitar. God gave me grace and I didn’t get angry. “That’s ok,” I said, “It’s only a piece of wood.” (A real expensive piece of wood, I thought, but didn’t say it). Anyway, I was merciful.
The next day, at the gas company where I worked as a draftsman, I dozed off and spilled India ink all over the only copy of a particular map. My boss, who was out of the office that day, was known for his angry outbursts and intolerance for mistakes. He’d kill me when I told him the next day. That night I prayed, “Lord, I showed mercy to that kid who scratched my guitar. You said if I showed mercy I’d receive it. PLEASE let me find mercy when I tell my boss. PLEASE have mercy on me.”
The next day I immediately told my boss what I’d done. I braced for his fury. “That’s ok,” he said, without a hint of anger. “We can piece together a new map from others.” I was stunned. I’d never seen him respond so kindly. “Thank you Jesus!” I prayed silently. “It worked! You gave me mercy!”
Puritan Thomas Watson said, “Bishop Cranmer [Archbishop of Canterbury, 1533-55, in case you’re ever on Jeopardy!] was of a merciful disposition. If any who had wronged him came to desire a courtesy from him, he would do all that lay in his power for him, insomuch that it grew to a proverb: Do Cranmer an injury and He will be your friend as long as he lives.”
Lord Jesus, give us hearts of mercy.
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Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter.
Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.