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Summary: So, do I have to go to the heart of Africa or some other war ravaged, AIDS ridden, refugee overrun, starving hordes kind of country before I can show mercy? I hope not! Is that unmerciful? What does being merciful really mean?

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26/12/09 Pastorross | public entry | tags: identifying with others, Mercy, Compassion, Matthew 5 | report

Matthew 5 - Oh God, please don’t send me to Africa!

When I think of mercy I think of Mother Teresa spending her life working amongst the poor in India, but I don’t know why exactly. Mercy just seems to be associated with those who sacrifice much to help others to the point where they walk in their shoes, and feel their needs, not just see them. But does that mean I have to go to the heart of Africa or some other war ravaged, AIDS ridden, refugee overrun, starving hordes kind of country before I can show mercy? I hope not! What does being merciful really mean?

"BLESSED ARE THE MERCIFUL, - for they shall receive mercy." (Matthew 5:7)

The word "mercy" means "to have a forgiving spirit and a compassionate heart." It’s seeing things from the point of view of the person in need, feeling their pain, and identifying with them. That puts me in a place where I can then do something about their need which will really help them, sometimes in unexpected ways. I can understand Jesus teaching this to His disciples, because they would need to show mercy to others when they came down from the mountain. This was leadership training that said, "Don’t get hardened to people’s needs, don’t be unforgiving when someone wrongs you and don’t numb yourself to the desperate needs you see around you". Not all that easy to do at times. It involves a deliberate act of the will.

That’s what God did when He sent Christ. We celebrate God’s mercy when, at Christmas time, God identified with us to the point of becoming a man, seeing things through our eyes and feeling our needs.

Jesus showed that kind of mercy to me when He died for my sins.

Colossians 3:12-13 (NLT)

"Since God chose you to be the holy people He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others."

1 John 3:17 (NLT) is very practical,

"If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion (mercy) - how can God’s love be in that person?"

I was walking along the street with a friend of mine many years ago when we came across a young man being tormented by a group of teenage boys. He was being pushed around and urged on to fight. My immediate inclination was to avoid any conflict and get out of there because the situation looked dangerous and we were only a little older than the teenage boys ourselves, but my friend knew the young man being tormented and couldn’t walk away. He walked right into the middle of the gang, took the young man by the shoulder, spoke his name calmly and said "Come on mate, let’s go". He did it with so much authority that the gang of teenagers just stood there and let him take his friend out of harms way. That was showing mercy. No holding back from helping someone, no matter what the cost.


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