Summary: John Wesley visited General Oglethorpe when he was governor of the colony of Georgia. The general mentioned an incident involving a man who had angered him and remarked, "I shall never forgive him!" Wesley answered, "Then I hope, sir, you never sin."
Mercy-The Way to Happiness
Text: "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy" (Matt. 5:7).
Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:1-7
John Wesley visited General Oglethorpe when he was governor of the colony of Georgia. The general mentioned an incident involving a man who had angered him and remarked, "I shall never forgive him!" Wesley answered, "Then I hope, sir, you never sin." Evidently Wesley was reminded of Jesus’ teaching that those who are not merciful and forgiving will not be treated with mercy and forgiveness.
Living without mercy is the prelude to dying without mercy. On the other hand, living with mercy results in being treated with mercy. As Jesus said it, "Blessed [happy] are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy."
This beatitude raises three very practical questions: What is mercy? How can I become merciful? And what can I expect as a result? Finding the answer to these questions is the way to happiness.
l. What is mercy?
Of the more than 180 times in which "mercy" appears in the Old Testament, the King James Version translates it 96 times as "mercy," 38 times as "kindness," and 30 times as "loving kindness."
A. Mercy is not emotionalism. To be merciful is far more than to shed tears. Of course, those who are merciful sometimes weep. Jesus did not restrain his tears as Martha and Mary grieved over their brother’s death. Another time he looked at a city and wept over it. There is something startling about this strong man’s weeping. “Jesus wept." But he did far more than weep-he gave himself for whom he wept.
It is easy for some to shed tears that are meaningless and unproductive. Theirs is emotion without motion-and this is not mercy!
B. Mercy is not humanitarianism. "If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing" (1 Cor. 13:3 NIV).
Mercy goes beyond handing out used clothes to flood victims or food to the elderly. It is possible to give your body to be burned and not have love. Acts of mercy that are void of an attitude of mercy are invalid. The mercy of which Christ speaks is far more than the mechanics of doing good.
C. Mercy is an attitude. It is not something that can be "turned on and off" at will. Mercy is more than end-of-the-year giving to the church for tax purposes. Mercy, as demonstrated by Christ, involves the way a person truly feels. It is an underlying attitude of life. Mercy is to see others as Christ sees them and feel toward others as he feels toward them. In short, mercy is to have the attitude of Christ toward everyone.
D. Mercy is action. Mercy is equally action. If we have an attitude of mercy, we will perform deeds of mercy. When springtime comes it cannot be kept a secret. It expresses itself through blossoming buds and singing birds. And when the springtime of mercy is in our hearts, it makes itself known in a multitude of ways.
When mercy is translated into action, we are kind and gracious in our judgment of others. We look for the best in others. We ask ourselves, "What circumstances led this person to do wrong?" rather than, "How can I expose or punish the wrongdoer?" Redemption, not condemnation, will be our concern.
Mercy that is action ministers to others. Even as calloused as the censorious lawyer was, he admitted that a "neighbor" is one who "shows" mercy, not simply feels it. Those who are merciful dare to help lighten others’ loads.
Mercy that is action forgives others. Perhaps there is no greater expression of love than forgiveness. When you have every right to be resentful but choose to forgive, you experience happiness that only mercy can bring.
II. How can I become merciful?
"Blessed are the merciful"-that is good, but how can I become merciful? I find it so easy to criticize. How can I change?
A. Remember your own need of mercy. We often make mistakes that require God’s mercy, so we should be merciful to others. Paul reminds us to watch our own actions when we become aware of another who "is caught in a sin" (Gal. 6:1 NIV).
B. Become more acquainted with anyone you are inclined to judge. Chances are you really do not know that person very well. The word prejudice means "prejudging," or making an estimate of others without knowing the facts. We frequently do this without knowing the person at all! It is easy to be unrelenting in our judgment of those we do not know, so we need to become better acquainted with others’ backgrounds, the problems they face, and the reasons for the scars they bear.