The Sermon on the Mount 9

Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy. — Matthew 5.7

The gift of mercy is linked to the act of mercy. Jesus demonstrates this in the Lord’s Prayer when He prays, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” He goes on to offer this teaching in Matt. 6.14-15: “For if you forgive others their trespasses your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

If I want to receive mercy from God, I must remain attuned to the enemies of mercy in my life. Some of these enemies include:

  1. Anger – I think this is our instinctive reaction when we’ve been wronged. When someone hurts me deeply — or even worse, hurts someone I love — I get angry. Anger seems to be a natural human emotion; even Jesus experienced anger at various times in His life. But when it is not dealt with properly, anger can lead to destruction. “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4.26)
  2. Bitterness – Bitterness is nothing but old anger. It’s anger that won’t go away because it hasn’t been dealt with properly. When I’m bitter it causes me to be petty. There was this guy that owed me $30 once. Every time I’d see him, he’d have some excuse as to why he didn’t have my money for me. After a while, I completely gave up any hope that he’d ever pay me back. But every time I saw him, it just burned me up that he’d duped me into giving him that money. Then one day, I found out this guy had committed suicide. Suddenly the thirty bucks didn’t seem like such a big deal anymore.
  3. Entitlement – I think the worst part about anger is the sense of entitlement it engenders. We remain angry at people for what they’ve done and we feel it’s our right to be angry at them. But Jesus calls us to release that burden. In fact, I think Jesus calls us to recognize that we don’t in fact have the right to withhold forgiveness from someone else.

The word Matthew uses here for mercy — a form of elios in Greek — implies both an inward feeling of compassion for the plight of others coupled with action that helps relieve their suffering. It’s about finding the courage to forgive when I’m given the opportunity to do so. When I am the offended party, how will I choose to react? Will I lord this debt over the one who has wronged me, similar to the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18? Or will I choose the way of forgiveness, the way that Christ says is truly the blessed life?

Forgive and you will be forgiven. — Luke 6.37

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