Summary: This message continues with the character traits of disciples based on the beatitudes.
Discipleship Part 6: Character Traits
This morning we will continue with the character traits of a disciple using the beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount as our reference. To date we have discussed three traits: being obedience; being poor in spirit; being mournful; being gentle and/or meek; and hungering and thirsting for righteousness. This morning we will continue beginning with verse seven of Matthew chapter five.
I. Being Merciful
Matthew 5:7 says “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” As I shared with you a couple of weeks ago, when someone does something wrong to us we desire justice; swift and immediate justice. However, when we are the ones in the wrong, we do not want justice, we want mercy. In order for us to receive mercy from God, we must first be willing to give it.
Jesus said that those who are merciful will receive mercy. Webster’s dictionary defines mercy as “refraining from harming offenders and/or enemies; a disposition to forgive.” To better understand what Jesus was saying, let’s examine the two Greek words for merciful and mercy. The Greek word eleemon when used as an adjective means merciful. It does not mean someone is just possessed with pity, but someone who is actively compassionate. There is a difference between someone who is filled with mercy and never shows it and someone who actively gives and/or demonstrates it. The person who proactively shows mercy when faced with situations when others would demand justice is who Jesus was referencing here. When we choose to be merciful instead of demanding justice and revenge, we open the door for God to show us mercy when we least deserve it. The Greek word for mercy is eleeo. It means to have compassion or mercy on. As a verb it signifies in general, “to feel sympathy with the misery of another.” So consider when we are the guilty party and we must come clean before our Lord. When we stand before Him we desire mercy not justice. We are guilty and are deserving of the punishment that we should receive. However, because we have been merciful to others, God shows mercy to us. He has compassion on us when we least deserve it because we have shown that same compassion to others. Many do not understand this concept and continue to treat those who have offended them as guilty parties deserving to be punished. But if we remember that we too have been the guilty party and we asked for and received mercy, should we then not do the same for those who request it of us? Of course we should, but that is the first step. The trueness of being merciful comes when we have mercy on an offender without them requesting it. This is what the Greek word for merciful refers to; someone who proactively demonstrates compassion. As you might imagine, this mixes with how the world operates like oil mixes with water.
Last week I shared with you about being gentle – being gentle or meek while walking in the true strength that lies within you. Being merciful is also about strength. You see, the world teaches us that we should be strong without feeling. We should exercise our strength by crucifying our enemies and making sure everyone knows that they should not cross us. The world teaches us that there is no room for weakness; especially for those who are leaders. The world teaches us that we should be strong; stand firm; and when we are crossed to take immediate action to deter anyone else from crossing us in the future. This is what the world teaches us. This is why there are many conversations that take place where someone says “If I was you and they did that to me, I would do ________.” You can fill that blank in with a lot of words but the one word that probably would not often find its way there is mercy. We generally do not recommend having mercy on someone; we demand justice because we have been wronged and someone should compensate us for our being wronged. There is a true strength that lies within those who are merciful that the world does not understand. It takes a very strong person to forgive and wipe the slate clean when the other person does not deserve it. But the person who is merciful understands that it is not about the other person, it is about them and their relationship with God.
Paul told us in Ephesians 5:1-2 to “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” He encourages us to be imitators of God just like children. The Greek word translated as imitators is mimetes and it means a follower as in a continuous sense. What we became during our conversion is what we must diligently continue to be thereafter. For those of you who have children you know that they often imitate their parents. They try to walk like them; to their dismay, they try to talk like them; and sometimes they might even try to wear their parent’s clothes as they are “imitating” their parents. Paul says that like these little children who imitate their parents, we should imitate God by walking in love just as Christ loved us. God is a God of mercy and if we begin to imitate Him, we will become children of mercy. This is not a one time act; but a way of continuous living. It becomes a part of who we are at our core. “Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.” Let’s move on to the pure in heart.