When it came to the general election last year, I was actually 4 months too young to vote. However despite this, most of my friends – whether they were old enough to vote or not – had some very strong political opinions and as voting day grew ever closer their debates flared up more and more. As they debated, things would heat up and get nasty and friends would use arguments to get one over on each other. It was like a snapshot of the world; neither party would give in or back down.
In Jesus’ day too it was a dog eat dog world. Jesus is speaking His message to a group of people under the occupied force of the Roman Empire. The Romans showed no mercy to anyone, it had taken over the culture, every man, woman and child had to take a stand for themselves. Jesus on the mountain side says something revolutionary for them and for us….
Jesus says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
Its pretty self-explanatory but has so much depth for us, we need to be merciful to others and it is seen in the things we say and do.
When we don’t agree with someone on something, it isn’t about shutting them down and having a ‘no mercy’ attitude it’s about chatting things through in a loving way even if they themselves show no mercy to us.
That’s why it’s called being counter-cultural – most other people aren’t going to be like that, but we’re the ones that have to be different. Being counter-cultural definitely isn’t easy but Jesus calls us to be distinct from the rest of the world, if we are not standing apart then are we following Jesus correctly?
So what is it to be merciful? It is meeting the need of someone who is in misery, not just identifying something but also doing something about it. An example in the bible is the good Samaritan (you can read it in Luke 11), in a nutshell a traveller gets mugged and the last person you would expect to help out (a Samaritan) does… this guy who sees the beat up man not only identifies a problem but goes out of his way to sort it. He, at his own expense, looks after the stranger, he shows him mercy. How many of us would see the need of the man in the gutter but expect someone else to pick him up and dust him off.
Let’s be honest, it’s not every day you find a beat up stranger in the ditch. However, there will be everyday opportunities to show mercy. For example, it could be paying someone’s bill when you know they are short this month, or speaking well of people who are critical of you, or even going to talk to the person no-one really likes at work and spending a bit of time getting to know them. Doing things like this, that are a little out of the ordinary, not in a weird way but in a counter-cultural way can really impact people in a positive manner. This can gradually lead to the questions about why you live in a generous, merciful way; it provides a great opportunity to talk about Jesus.
In James 2:13 it says ‘There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when He judges you.’
Here James tells us that our acts of mercy indicate whether we have received the life giving mercy of God or not.
We need to show mercy because ultimately God has shown us the greatest mercy of all by sending His Son Jesus to die for us so that when we ask for forgiveness, we are forgiven. We are all sinners and have messed up, but Jesus took our sin on His shoulders and gave us His life so that we could live for Him. Because we have been shown mercy, we should be merciful in all of situations.
In the grand scheme of things, our little disputes and the effort needed to be a little bit merciful is nothing compared to the sacrifice Jesus made dying on the cross for us all. We have to hold an eternal perspective on our present challenges. In the light of eternity what’s a car parking space? Or a political vote?
So maybe next time someone is critical of you- instead of unleashing all hell upon them – show them mercy. Next time someone takes your parking space, let them have it, be loving, be gentle, show them a kindness that is underserved- after all what better way of demonstrating the very same love and kindness that has been shown us.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”