Summary: The need for mercy is great, Jesus points out the need for mercy in the beatitudes found in the sermon on the mount
You were in a hurry to get to work – you did not see the stop sign, but he did, and in just a matter of seconds, you hear the siren and see the blue lights. You are about to receive a traffic ticket. The cost will be approx. $150.00 plus points on your license. Your insurance is going to go up, your spouse is going to be disappointed and your boss is going to be furious because you are late – After a brief exchange with the police officer, he gives you a citation – and you have just driven into “THE MERCILESS ZONE”
It started out as a dare, everyone is doing it, no one ever is caught they tell you. After all, you want to be cool don’t you? You have the money in your pocket to buy the candy bars and you do not really want to eat the candy bars, but you want to fit in; So you look both ways, no one is looking. You take the candy bars, place them in your pocket and begin to walk out. You did it, you got away with it. As you walk out the door, the store manager taps you on the shoulder and asks for the candy bars you have just stolen. “We take shop lifting seriously here”, he says as calls your parents and the police. You are embarrassed to say the least. When your parents arrive at the store they are fuming and disappointed, what will happen over the next 24 hours will be both humbling and painful, you will hear words like grounding, and “How can we ever trust you again” you just walked in “THE MERCILESS ZONE”
Have you ever visited “THE MERCILESS ZONE”?
A mistake is made or you said something you wished you could take back only to discover that punishment is swift and mercy is lacking.
Mercy is one of those words we long to hear at work, in school and in our homes. Because we are fallen people, we need mercy on a daily basis. What is true today was also true some 2,000 years ago.
Mercy was not a prized commodity in the ancient world.
A popular Roman philosopher called mercy “The disease of the soul”. Mercy was the supreme sign of weakness. Mercy was a sign you did not have what it takes to be a real man or a real Roman. The Romans judged everything by discipline, courage, justice and absolute power. In their world, there was no room for mercy.
A Roman father had the right of Patria Opitestas, he could decide if his newborn child lived or died. As the child was held before him, he could give a “thumbs up” – meant life, or a “thumbs down”, meant rejection and the child was immediately drowned.
Citizens had the same power over their slaves. At anytime or for any reason, a slave could be killed and buried with no fear of arrest or punishment.
Wives lived in fear of their husbands. Any provocation, no mater how small could mean banishment or death.
We look at these situations and shudder at such a merciless culture, yet today abortion and elder abuse reflect the same merciless attitude.
In the ancient world as well as today, societies that despise mercy are societies that glorify brutality.
The motive of self-concern is what characterizes people who lack mercy. Maybe it was because mercy was lacking in the ancient world that Jesus focused on this fifth beatitude; Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy