Merciful or Merciless (Matthew 5:7)

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There once was a Hollywood actor getting all the attention that celebrities get: photographs, conversations, asked for autographs. A group of teen girls asked to take a selfie picture with this actor. They gathered around him and one of the girls snapped a picture. The actor became very upset with the group of girls. He wasn’t happy with the way the picture looked and started chastising the young girls. He claimed, “This picture doesn’t do me justice.” Then one of the girls fathers stepped in and said, “Sir, with a face like yours, you don’t need justice, you need mercy!”

That’s exactly the situation that we are in before God. Many of us are prideful and think we want justice, but in reality before a holy God we need massive mercy.

Today we continue our series #RogueLiving looking at the 5th Beatitude from Matthew 5. Rogue Living sermon logo 1

EXAMINE

Remember:

  • Beatitudes are #RogueLiving, counter-culture, extraordinary characteristics for how to live.
  • Beatitudes are like jewels displayed intentionally, not randomly. There is an order and flow, starting with inward character of poor in spirit (humility), mourning over sin, meekness, and having an appetite for righteousness.
  • Beatitudes are byproducts of walking with Jesus. We cannot obtain them in a formula but by grace through faith walking with Jesus, these beatitudes become our DNA.
  • The previous beatitudes were challenging, but this beatitude, along with every other going forward, is dangerous. Like the saying, “it’s where the rubber meets the road,” your life will begin to get traction when you are applying the truths and teachings of Jesus.
  • This beatitude is the first to relate to an outward mark of a Christian. The previous four beatitudes are inward traits for how we relate to God, but this one emphasizes an action toward others, that of exercising mercy.

Matthew 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

Matthew 57 [widescreen]Mercy (ἐλεήμων) means having compassion for another. The term is often used of God in the way He relates to His people. In the OT, the basic word is “hesed,” which is a very rich and profound word to describe God’s steadfast love, compassion, grace, and mercy. God’s mercy is compassion in action; helping the weak and rescuing those who are suffering. For Jesus, mercy is not mere pity like when we give or help others to make ourselves feel good or look better before others. Pity is self-serving charity, whereas mercy is selfless compassion. Mercy is monumental to the meaning of Christianity.

Someone has described it like this:

–        Grace is God giving you good that you don’t deserve.

–        Mercy is God not giving you bad that you do deserve.

Therefore, we stand in great need of both God’s grace and mercy.

Jesus’ life model and message frequently involved mercy. Matthew’s Gospel has an ongoing theme regarding mercy.

In the SOM, Jesus noted the religious culture of the day did not prioritize mercy as people frequently displayed anger (Matthew 5:21-26) and sought revenge (Matthew 5:38-42). In contrast, Jesus taught peacemaking, forgiveness, reconciliation, and love should take preeminence. Praying for your persecutors and enemies reflected belonging to a different and divine kingdom, rather than an earthly kingdom (Matthew 5:44-47). Mercy is a momentously different way of living, and Jesus modeled it perfectly.
Jesus continually showed mercy to help others: a leper (8:1-4), paralyzed servant (8:5-13), Peter’s mother n law (8:14-15), many others who were sick or oppressed (8:16-17), He extended mercy to the blind (9:27-31), mercifully healed many people: a Canaanite woman’s daughter who was demon-oppressed (15:21-28), an epileptic boy (17:14-18), blind travelers (20:29-34), and countless others. John’s Gospel says endless libraries couldn’t contain the books that could be written of Jesus’ miracles of mercy (Jn 21:25).

 

Matthew 18:21-35

Further, in Matthew’s Gospel, there is an exchange of a person with Jesus that helps our understanding of mercy. Peter asks a question for how frequently you should forgive someone who offends you. In this exchange between Peter and Jesus we learn the reciprocal principle of mercy: Mercy received results in mercy reflected.

Peter understood that forgiveness is difficult.

Peter thought he was being gracious offering 7x since within Judaism, 3x was sufficient to show a forgiving spirit.[1] Forgiving someone is not easy because it comes at a cost of turning away from disappointment, hurt, injustice. Our humanity wants to seek revenge.

–        Unforgiveness results in bitterness.

–        Bitterness results in hurting others. Hurt people hurt people.

Jesus explains that forgiveness is demanded.

The response of Jesus to Peter is affirming his question, but explaining a fuller understanding of mercy and forgiveness. True forgiveness is freeing and forever; it is a choice to pardon an offense. God’s grace comes to us freely and forever. Likewise, those who have experienced God’s mercy are to extend forgiveness to others (cf. Mt 6:14-15, 18:23-35; Eph 4:32).

So, when Jesus preaches the beatitude “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy,” He is teaching the application of His message and model. In sum, those who have felt the freedom of God’s forgiveness, tasted the sweetness of God’s salvation, and met the merciful, wonderful Savior, must be bridges of God’s blessings to the world.  God’s mercy isn’t meant to just come to us but through us.

 

APPLY/THINK

If we understand the Beatitudes, specifically this fifth one, then we must understand that mercy is not neutral. We cannot ride the middle for giving mercy to others; either we are merciful or we are merciless.

è Mercy with your family.

o   Some spouses can drift relationally and begin despising each other over the littlest of issues, forgetting about why you disagree or argue, and never willing to apologize just because you don’t want to appear weak.

o   Some parents are quick-tempered and demand obedience rather than dazzling their child with God’s greatness and grace.[2]

o   Some grown children forget how much their parents have sacrificed to serve them, and have grown entitled and merciless to every peculiar aspect of their parents.

 

è Mercy with your neighbor.

o   It’s no accident where you live, as God organized circumstances for you to live in your neighborhood as salt and light to the people around you. Christians must learn how to meet neighbors for how they can reflect and display the mercy of God. Sometimes Christians can be mean neighbors and not merciful neighbors.

è Mercy in church.

o   Jesus frequently taught and even chastened the religious elite about understanding mercy: “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13, 12:7, 23:23). In fact, Jesus was harder on those who should know better (“Christians”) than those who were ignorant and blatant sinners.

o   Three groups God Scripture frequently speaks of God’s care: widows, fatherless, strangers (mostly unbelievers).[3] All were without help or hope in the cultural settings of the day, but God works to protect and preserve the weak and needy.

  • Widows… those who are deeply grieved over love lost, need tangible care (cf. 1Tim 5:3-16).
  • Fatherless… physically or spiritually. It is the church’s role to equip and encourage physical (biological, adoptive, foster) and spiritual fathers. Likewise, the church is to raise up young men to be godly fathers.

è Mercy to unbelievers.

o   Unbelievers act the way they do because they are lost and unknowing of God’s ways, worth, and grace available to them. And God has chosen His people to be a means for reflecting His mercy. When we post social media statements that not just disagree with a worldview but that disparage a person made in the image of God, then our gospel message doesn’t sound like good news.

o   Paul said “though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent, but I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” (1Tim 1:13-17)

  • Next Apostle Paul may be a terrorist in ISIS group
  • Next Jonathan Edwards may be a youth asleep in church services.
  • Next Charles Spurgeon may be in a gang.
  • Next Billy Graham may be a drunk.
  • Next Mother Theresa or Elisabeth Elliot, or Lottie Moon may be a heroin addict on the streets of Baltimore.

o   Peter exhorts Christians, 1Peter 2:10-12 “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people’ once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles [unbelievers] honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”

o   A Christian’s or church’s acts of mercy to others are messages God’s mercy to a watching and unbelieving world.

In closing, the bridge between Jesus’ day and our day is not difficult to see.

 

In Jesus’ day the moral fabric of the nation was abysmal. Roman government leaders rule by force. The political insiders justified corruption based on common practices of the day. In order to get what they needed or wanted, people operated by might not mercy. Likewise, inside the church were prideful power plays to obtain position rather than providing service to the people.

 

And today, moral corruption is prevalent.[4] The internet, movies, and television permeate with both soft and hard pornography. Immorality with fornication, adultery, and all sorts of sexual sin from human trafficking to personal sin is widespread. Mainstream media and public government with activist lawmakers misuse their positions to dismiss religious freedom and push a secular agenda. The ills and horrors of Planned Parenthood are an abomination to God. Islamic terrorism is an insult to faith, much more the idea of a religion of peace. Human rights and religious liberty is atrocious to consider in the dark places of North Korea, India, China, Russia, and so many other nations.

 

WHILE many of us would say “Amen,” Jesus gives us these Beatitudes not to scream judgment at the world, but to spotlight our sin and weakness before God. We stand in immeasurable need of God’s mercy. And God stands ready with immeasurable mercy (Eph 2:4).

 

 

[1] ESV Study Bible, notes on Matthew 18:21-22.

[2] http://www.gccc.net/sermons/dazzleyourteen.pdf

[3] Ex 22:21-24; Deut 14:29; 16:11-14; 24:17-21; 26:12-13; 27:19; Ps 68:5; Isa 1:17; Jer 22:3; Eze 22:7; Zech 7:10; Mal 3:5; Ja 1:27.

[4] Following thoughts and words inspired and adapted from https://jdgreear.com/blog/serious-injustice-serious-repentance/

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