Summary: Mercy is one of God’s core attributes and showing mercy one of the requirements to receiving it.
Over the past few weeks we’ve been looking at the blessed like, life in the Kingdom of God.
So far you could describe what we’ve been looking at as the attitudes, or the spiritual conditions, that reflect Kingdom people. They are poor in spirit, they mourn over sin, they are meek and they hunger and thirst for righteousness.
How does that make you feel? I have to admit that when you put it like that, I ask myself, ’Who’d want that?’
But God turns the world’s values around. The blessing is with the poor in spirit because although they may not have much in terms of worldly wealth, all the riches of God’s kingdom are their’s. Those who mourn are comforted by God. The meek may not seem much now, but they will inherit the earth. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will have a real satisfaction that the world just can’t understand.
And we’ve also seen that these aren’t qualities we normally associate with success. It’s really easy to enter the Kingdom - you just have to humble yourself and have a heart for God… which of course makes it really hard to enter the Kingdom!
A paradox, isn’t it?
Today we’re moving on from attitude to action - what to Kingdom minded people do? Actually, over the next couple of weeks we’re going to look at qualities that are very much grounded in attitude, but they have a very practical and tangible outworking.
In Matthew 5.7 Jesus said, "Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy"
Who here’s led a perfect life? You’ve never done anything wrong and never needed forgiveness? Of course, we’ve all sinned and need his forgiveness. We need God’s mercy! And Jesus said that mercy comes to those who are merciful.
WHAT IS MERCY?
So, the question is, what does mercy look like?
First of all, we need to understand that it’s not primarily a feeling. Mercy is related to compassion, but they’re not the same.
In the Bible, compassion is a deep emotional response to suffering. Usually compassion leads to some kind of action, and that’s often when compassion becomes mercy. On the other hand, you can be merciful in the way you act towards another person without feeling anything at all.
So although mercy is often motivated by feelings, its not really about how you feel but what you do.
A. MERCY IS AT THE HEART OF GOD
Mercy is such an important quality for Christians because it is at the core of God’s character.
"I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion" (Ex 33.19).
Before he’s even started to tell Moses his name, what’s he saying about himself? That he’s merciful! That he’s compassionate! Now, he’s also saying that he chooses who he will have mercy and compassion on. He owes no one anything and is under no obligation to have mercy on anyone, that’s why he says, ’I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.’ But none-the-less, the first thing he wants Moses to know is that he is merciful and compassionate.
What does that tell you about God? One commentator says that this passage tells us mercy may be one of God’s fundamental attributes. So just as God is holy, and he is love, he is also mercy. It’s just who he is. So do you understand why it’s so important that his people are also like that?
B. WHAT MERCY LOOKS LIKE
A few verses on God proclaims his name and tells us what mercy looks like. Ex 34.6-7:
"The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation" (Ex 34.6-7).
If you want to know what mercy looks like - God is a good place to start!
i. First of all, mercy is compassionate. I said earlier that mercy is more about action than feeling, but let’s face it - not too many hard-hearted people are merciful.
Jesus was the picture of mercy and compassion. Time and again Jesus is confronted by crowds of people who need healing or teaching or feeding. Do you know what Jesus’ response is? It’s usually one of compassion - he feels for them.