We have seen a progression while going through the Beatitudes. First is humility before God, and then sorrowing over our sin. Third was meekness, or quiet strength. Scripture says that those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength as eagles, finding strength for the journey. These attitudes will create a hunger and thirst for His righteousness.
As we walk this journey in the Lord, we must learn to be merciful toward others. This can be a tough one, especially as we try to balance mercy with a love for justice – another quality extolled in Scripture.
(Matthew 5:7) “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
A subtle approach of our old sin nature is a lack of mercy. For many Believers, this is a stronghold that really needs to be cast down (1Corinthians 10:3-5). How does this lack manifest?
One way is when we see someone with a particular sin issue that we don’t have, and we are quick to judge them for it. An easy example to use would be homosexuality and other perversions. Those who are solidly adult hererosexual often assume that the homosexual has chosen to be strongly attracted to the same gender. You see the argument stated several different ways, but it is typically in such a way that it heaps condemnation and hatred upon the homosexual. Instead of telling them simply to turn to Christ and turn away from the sinful actions, they take an accusative approach that does not show the love of God. While they may claim they want to see the person saved, they almost seem to rejoice in telling this kind of sinner that they are going to hell.
The same attitude can be shown regarding any other sin. Some people are fine with homosexuals, but they hate a thief. Or the murderer. Or the rapist. Or the town gossip.
And then they expect to receive mercy from God for their own sins! It is easy to forget that from God’s perspective it is all just SIN. In Romans 1, after discussing homosexuality, Paul turns to a long list of other sins, and says all those who practice these things deserve death.
Do you envy someone? Did you talk about someone behind their back? Are you boasting in some accomplishment of yours? YOU DESERVE DEATH! You deserve to go to hell for eternity, separated from God (Romans 1:32).
All to often, there are certain sins of which we approve (usually ones we also commit), while other sins we condemn (ones either we don’t commit or that we are the victim of). We get really angry with our kids for disobedience, forgetting that we were sometimes disobedient to our own parents. And certainly we have been disobedient to our Heavenly Father.
A second way the lack of mercy manifests is when it is something that God has dealt with in us already. Say that you used to gossip, but learned from God how to stop. Now you never talk about others personal lives. But you see Suzy, who has not turned away from that yet or not been totally delivered yet, perhaps does not even realize she is doing it. So you think to yourself some rather unkind thoughts about Suzy and her lack of spirituality. And in so doing, only demonstrate that you are still a spiritual baby, yourself.
(Romans 2:1, 4) Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge; For in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself, for you who judge practice the same things. … Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance.
From God’s point of view, sin is sin. If you have broken one commandment, then you are a lawbreaker and a sinner. Did you backbite or some other “minor” sin? Then you are just as guilty before God as the pedophile.
(Does that last comparison hit you, tempt you to get mad at me? Or perhaps make you want to discount all I just said? “Why that bleepity-bleep. How dare he compare me to a filthy pedophile!” That is your sin nature, trying to keep you in bondage to judgment. The Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4;12), and sometimes the cuts will hurt, will cause an instictive reaction. The sin nature hates correction. Seek God for His truth, and find freedom. To Him, all sin is like a well-used tampon or piece of toilet paper. For that matter, so is our own righteousness (Isaiah 64:6). Disgusting? Yes, it is.)
Ah, but for mercy!! Were it not for God’s mercy we would all go to hell, and rightly so. Can we not show mercy, knowing that we also have sinned, and likely still sometimes sin.
Your salvation may depend on it! He said that the merciful will obtain mercy. Mercy is not getting what you really deserve. A little later in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus also said to judge not, or we will be judged, and we will be judged by the same measuring stick that we judge others (Matthew 7:1, 2).
Who did Jesus constantly rebuke and warn of hellfire? Read the Gospels and see for yourself. His strongest rebukes were not for the sinners. He told them to go and sin no more, and most of His actual instructions were for sinners and for those who chose to follow Him. But the ones who received a sharp rebuke were the religious folk who walked in self-righteous attitudes – the ones who thought they were better than the “sinners” because they did not commit those particular sins (so they thought).
Note that this does NOT mean we do not acknowledge or address sin. We definitely should take a stand against sin. The question is: Do we approach the issue extolling the mercies and goodness of a God who is willing to forgive, willing to help us change. …The goodness of God leads to repentance. Warn of hell, certainly, but our focus should be on the love of God in most cases.
The final question: Are you learning how to be merciful? Jesus taught that we would be known by our love, and love is longsuffering, is merciful. This is something most of us need more growth in. Pray and ask God to show you where you are lacking in mercy, then repent and start practicing it.