Summary: Having mercy is when God doesn’t give us what we really deserve.
Tonight we continue with the beatitudes—the attitude we are to be or have as a Christian. Let’s talk about being merciful. Having mercy is when God doesn’t give us what we really deserve. We live in a world where it's so easy to become callused and indifferent. We are bombarded daily with news of tragedies, violence, and suffering people. Living in such a world often causes us to develop a certain amount of thick skin. Unfortunately, thick skin and a hard heart are often confused with one another. Instead of developing a thick skin, many develop a hard heart. As a result you can find unforgiving people everywhere in our society. Unfortunately, their hardness has made them cynical and merciless.
Jesus said, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy." He stands against the harshness of our society. In fact, God says in Ephesians 4:32, "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." Let me ask you, “Do you find it difficult to follow such a command?” Sometimes it's tough. It's so easy to get a hard heart. But Jesus knew the value of mercy. Let’s take a look at mercy.
Picture yourself at a shopping center watching an elderly woman struggling with her packages. What you are most likely to see is a steady stream of people passing her by, all of whom could help her, but they don't. Many are even irritated with her slowness. Finally you might see a tender-hearted person stop and take the time to help her.
Now, if we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that sometimes other people really get under our skin. We don't want them to, but we don’t seem to be able to do anything about it. They aggravate us, offend us, and we become hard toward them. We know we shouldn’t feel this way, but we do. We know that we ought to forgive them, but it’s soooo hard. Our hearts have become hard.
The problem is that we are the losers in this scenario. If we don’t show mercy, no mercy will be shown to us. Jesus said, "For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions." (Matthew 6:14-15 ) James 2:13 reads, "For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment." When we show no mercy, we are the losers in terms of God's mercy.
We want to be more merciful and forgiving, but we seem to have unlearned those emotions. How can we relearn them? What are some practical steps we can take to develop a little more tenderness? How can we develop a merciful spirit? How can we be, as the Scripture tells us, more tender-hearted, kind, and forgiving?
It’s a matter of perspective. Sometimes we’re too busy for people to be very important. We are caught up with our goals, our projects. We see ourselves as busy people, always behind, working hard to get things done. In the hustle of busy lives it’s easy to see people as either road blocks or stepping stones. It's too often easy to evaluate them in terms of whether they fit into our plans or not.
It’s hard to see people as individually important and valuable to God. It's easier to categorize them by whatever stereotypes are convenient for us. Some are winners, others are losers. Some are ordinary, and some are extraordinary. But the truth is that God loves every one of them. Even those we think are losers are important to God. God loves the prisoner, the homosexual, the bag lady, and the bag boy just as much as He loves the medical students, and the theological students, the teachers, and the stock-brokers.
All people are special in God's eyes. The waitress who serves your dinner, the check-out girl in the supermarket, the parking lot attendant at the garage are all important to God. Think about that the next time you see them. Even the hothead who is shaking his or her fist at you on the road is important to God. So is the person who has offended you, or hurt you, or made you angry.
Have you ever stood in a crowd of people at the airport? Around you are a conglomeration of races and ethnic cultures, a motley crew of well-dressed and poorly dressed, clean and grungy, old and young, loud and quiet. Some you would sit next to on the plane, others you want to stay away from.
Do you realize that each one of these people has a life, goals, dreams, a family? Each one is a special person to God. Each one is as important as I am or you are. We need to pray, "God, let me see them through your eyes." Seeing as God sees can be a giant step toward a merciful, tender-hearted, and forgiving attitude.