Truly Blessed, part 4 – Merciful

It was a busy day and I was keeping on schedule. The music in my car was loud, the road wide open, the day a sunny one.  All in the same moment I saw the police cruiser sitting just off the road, glanced at my speedometer, and realized that I was about to hear those words – “License and registration, please.” 

Sure enough, the patrol car pulled out behind me and after following me for about a mile, the lights came on and I pulled over. I did not need to ask why. I knew my speed was well over the limit for that stretch of country road.  He took my documents, returned to his car.  A few minutes later, he came back, handed me my documents, warned me to ‘slow down,’ and I drove away relieved. 

Strictly speaking, I deserved to be fined, but I found mercy.

In His message about finding the life God desires for us, Jesus included this instruction –Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (Matthew 5:7, NIV)

Mercy, what is it? Is it just being lenient? Is it compassion? Is it being kindly? When is it appropriate to be merciful and when should we give others what they deserve?  The answer is not simple or obvious. As a parent I waffled between mercy and ‘justice.’ Sometimes I just wanted to overlook the times when my children were disrespectful or disobedient; others I sent them to bed early! Too often what passed for ‘mercy,’ depended on my mood, not on any kind of fairness.

So, how should we understand Jesus’ words to us? When and how should we show mercy to others? He is our model! David says – “The Lord is merciful and gracious; he is slow to get angry and full of unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He has not punished us for all our sins, nor does he deal with us as we deserve. For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.” (Psalm 103:8-11, NLT)  

He does not say that God is incapable of bringing us to justice! He says that God’s first desire is to show us love, in the form of mercy and grace.Paul reminds Christian believers of their access to the heart of the Father.  “Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4-5, NIV)

IF we got what we had coming, IF God treated us with pure justice, we would perish. Who can claim to have loved Him perfectly, served Him well, or done what He desires without flaw? No one! For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23, NLT)  My merciful Father pulls me closer to His side when I wander. He convicts me, letting me feel the sting of conscience, but He does not call me worthless or turn me away.  

This is how we find the joyful life in our relationships with others, too. If we are harsh, condemning, demanding, and quick to judge, we will bring hurt and crush the hearts of others. If we are merciful, able to speak honestly to failure and sin but with the desire of restoration and renewal, we heal and give hope.  I know that many will insist that showing mercy encourages irresponsibility. 

In the Christian world there are many voices that will object to ‘cheap grace,’ saying that a merciful heart just lets others off the hook.  Jesus says otherwise. He shows us mercy and says that we will find it – from God and others – in the measure with which we give it!

Are you merciful? Is your first impulse to punish?
Or will you cultivate a heart like the heart of God, full of mercy and compassion?

Here’s a word from the Word. Learn it, love it, live it. I use a contemporary paraphrase today to help hear, in a new way, the familiar instruction of the Lord.

“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.” (Matthew 7:1-5, The Message)

The merciful are truly blessed!

_________________

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Great is Thy faithfulness
There is no shadow
Of turning with Thee
Thou changest not
Thy compassions they fail not
As Thou hast been
Thou forever wilt be

Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning
New mercies I see
All I have needed
Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness
Lord unto me

Summer and winter
And springtime and harvest
Sun moon and stars
In their courses above
Join with all nature
In manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness
Mercy and love

Pardon for sin
And a peace that endureth
Thy own dear presence
To cheer and to guide
Strength for today
And bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine
With ten thousand beside

Thomas Obediah Chisholm | William Marion Runyan

© Words: Public Domain

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