Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. [Matthew 5:7 ESV]
With the merciful you show yourself merciful; with the blameless man you show yourself blameless;
with the purified you show yourself pure; and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.
For you save a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down. [Psalm 18:25-27 ESV]
Even though we distinguish the various characteristics of God speaking about this attribute first and next about that quality He is One and must be known as a whole. He is huge, larger than our ability to comprehend hence our desire to break Him into pieces. Our problem is a desire to control God through trying to understand Him. We take the various pieces we have identified and combine them in a way which makes some kind of sense to us and then, after a time, stop discovering more about Him and try to rest in our incomplete vision of who He is. We do the same thing with people seeing something we like or dislike and, because there are so many people and each is complex, we tag them or label them and stop discovering more about them. They are who we say they are. God is who we say He is. Once our decision about Him or anyone else is fixed and entrenched neither He nor they change in the thinking of our hearts because our concept of them will not change. For many mercy is an eternal quality of God separated out from the rest of Him.
Mercy is God’s active love toward those He has created in His image with the added element of offering reconciliation to those separated from Him because of rebellion. His active love for man is shown in the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, His Son and extends to those He has chosen for eternity.
Jesus is emphatic is His statements about the qualities and characteristics of the citizen of the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” [Matthew 5:7 ESV] continues defining the citizen. But with this statement there is an obvious expansion in the description of those who follow Him. With this verse, and the following two statements, we come to the working out of the first four verses showing the evidence of a changed life.
Once the whole person is changed, made by God to conform to the likeness of Jesus, the resulting actions will show the activity of the Holy Spirit in directing the citizen in a hostile world. As God takes those who are His through the transition from being one who sins and rebels to one who seeks God with their whole heart they begin to love God, love their neighbors and love themselves.
It is impossible for the unchanged person to show the evidence of love in their lives. Before they can begin showing love the person must be changed, recreated, with their eyes, hearts, words and actions directed by God and not themselves.
It seems like Jesus is repeating Himself and His teachings. He does repeat Himself, saying the same thing in different ways, over and over, expounding on the principles of a Godly life and forcing His listeners to agree with Him or completely reject Him. Jesus forces the issues leaving no room for ignoring them or being complacent with them. He demands, as only a Sovereign may, our full being to conform to His absolute standard.
Here’s the rub. Jesus meets the ultimate standard for us. He shows mercy to us but then demands we show mercy to others as evidence we recognize His mercy to us. Where we were sinners, still sinful, He covers us with His blood, an act of merciful redemption. Where He shows us our sin, bringing us to the low of repentance, He takes upon Himself the consequences of that sin, suffering the death justly ours. Where He turns us toward God, constantly away from sin, He gives us the tools we need to constantly live for God. Where we are continually enticed and tempted by the world He gives us a hunger and thirst for Him by living in us as His Holy Spirit. If we live it is because of Him. When we die it is for Him, for we will be with Him only because of His great and eternal mercy toward us.
Mercy is God’s active love toward us individually. We show we recognize God’s active love toward us by showing mercy, actively loving, those around us.
When we are merciful to others it shows we love God for what He has done for us. It is His rightful demand we love Him. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” [Deut. 6:4-5 ESV]. He is God and that is enough. He has commanded we love those He loves. However, since we are not god, He is, we do not have permission to act like god. “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord” [Leviticus 19:18 ESV]. So, we are to love God with our whole being, and we are to love even those who sin against us with our whole being. Everything in the Hebrew Scripture directs God’s creation, those made in His image, to love their Creator and to love those made in His image. In the New Testament, when the equivalent of an attorney asked Jesus “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” Jesus was quick to reply.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. [Matthew 22:36-40 ESV]
If we are honest with ourselves we will see the evidence of our lives and know, with the thinking of our hearts, how truly wanting we are in doing anything God requires. Being honest, however, will also show how much God has done for us and will do for us for eternity. His mercy is not once for now but once forever. He does not claim us as His to turn us back over to those who are our enemies but to fit us completely for eternity in His presence. He is brutally honest with us and demands we be brutally honest with ourselves and with Him.
Tempered with mercy.