By Keith Sharp
“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (Matt. 5:7).
Our federal government has a policy of granting American citizenship to those aliens who meet lawfully stipulated requirements. But, even though a former alien has become a naturalized citizen, he can forfeit the privileges of citizenship in our Republic by failure to demonstrate loyalty to the nation and obedience to its laws.
In the beatitudes, the Master announced the qualities of character that citizens of the kingdom of Heaven are required to possess. The first four beatitudes describe the requisites of character one must possess to gain citizenship in the kingdom. The final four announce qualities of character necessary for one to maintain that citizenship.
The fifth beatitude, recorded in Matthew 5:7, reveals the first of these marks of character demanded for maintaining our citizenship in God’s kingdom. It is true that our gaining entrance into the kingdom is dependent upon the mercy of the Father (John 3:5; Tit. 3:5). However, this new birth is not conditioned upon our extending mercy to others. Rather, this is a condition upon which we continue to enjoy the Father’s abundant mercy.
What is the lesson of the fifth beatitude? We shall discover this by finding the answers to three other questions:
How can we be merciful? Of course, a merciful person is one who shows mercy. But, what is “mercy”? Two words, “mercy” and “compassion,” are closely related to one another. “Compassion” is sympathy for those in need of help. It means we actually suffer with those who suffer (cf. 1 Cor. 12:26). “Compassion” is what a loving mother feels when she weeps with and for her injured child. The one who has compassion puts himself in the place of the one who is in need. “Compassion” leads to “mercy.” “Mercy” is actually relieving those in need. It is the action that results from compassion. The Samaritan of the Lord’s parable “had compassion on” the injured traveler. As the result the compassionate Samaritan “showed mercy on him” (Luke 10:25-37), i.e., he relieved his needs. Mercy assumes that the recipient is actually in need and that the giver has the ability to supply the need.
We demonstrate mercy to others by forgiving them when they wrong us (Matt. 18:21-35), by helping them when they are in need (Matt. 25:34-40), and by not being harsh in our judgment of them (Luke 6:36-38; Matt. 7:1-5). All these manifestations of mercy will be far easier if we first “put ourselves in their shoes.”
In what way do the merciful obtain mercy? The supreme example of mercy is the coming of the Son of God to this earth. We were in desperate need of salvation (Rom. 3:23; 6:23). He, alorte could save us (John 14:6; Acts 4:10-12; 13:23). He came and lived as a man, thus literally putting Himself in our place (Phil. 2:5-8). As the result, Christians have a great and merciful High Priest Who has been through all the temptations and trials we can encounter. Thus understanding, He gives us help in our trials and ministers His own blood before the mercy seat on high as the propitiation for our sins when we come to the Father through Him in prayer (Heb. 2:17-18; 4:14-16). But, His mercy to us, extended to us in the forgiveness of our sins and the help to meet temptations, as we pray, is conditioned upon our being merciful to others (Matt. 6:12,14,15).
Why do the merciful obtain God’s mercy? It is God’s purpose that we, as His children, become more and more like Him (2 Pet. 1:24). The Father is supremely merciful (Exod. 34:5-7; Psalm 103:8). When we demonstrate mercy, we show that we are becoming “partakers of the divine nature” and will be fit companions for God in eternity. Thus, God in turn abundantly blesses us with mercy in the form of strength and forgiveness.
In no action do we more accurately imitate our merciful Father than in showing mercy. If God so abundantly showers us with His mercy, should we not also be merciful, that He might continue to bless us?
“Not to the man of dollars,
Not to the man of deeds,
Not unto craft and cunning,
Not unto human creeds;
Not to the one whose passion
Is for the world’s renown,
Not in the form of fashion
Cometh a blessing down.
“But to the one whose spirit
Yearns for the great and good;
Unto the one whose storehouse
Yieldeth the hungry food;
Unto the one who labors
Fearless of foe or frown;
Unto the kindly-hearted,
Cometh a blessing down.”
Mary Frances Tucker
Truth Magazine XX: 27, pp. 425-426
July 8, 1976