Summary: 5th sermon in an 8 part series on the Beatitudes. This series challenges us to "Shift" our thinking in what really brings true happiness. (*Rewritten and refreshed in 8/08. Powerpoint and Video Clips available on request)
SHIFT - Part 5
THE MERCY THAT GIVES MERCY - The Boomerang Blessing
Maybe you have noticed, in reading through the beatitudes, that they fall into 2 distinct categories? The first 4 deal with our relationship to God. We are "poor in spirit," admitting our need for Him. We "mourn," we see our sin in light of what Jesus sacrificed for us. Then we surrender to God’s control. We empty ourselves of self-sufficiency and exhibit Christ dependency. We are "meek." The result of the first 3 steps? Hunger. And what you hunger for is righteousness.. You want more of His Word, of Christian influences, you find you’re happiest when around fellow believers. You hunger and thirst after a right relationship, and you are filled.
So, now that we know how to build a right relationship with God, Jesus turns our focus to the second four - how we can be right with one another. He begins by giving us the "Law of direct return" or as some call it: “The Boomerang Blessing.” He says, "You’ll be happy many times over when you show mercy to others, because then mercy will be shown to you." Jesus is making the point that the amount of mercy you show to others will be directly proportionate to the amount of mercy that you will receive. So many people are bound in a dungeon of resentment. And when a blanket of bitterness covers your soul, it sours your outlook and suffocates your joy. Since that’s the case, let’s look closely at what Jesus says about being merciful.
I. THE DEFINITION:
First, we need to make sure we understand fully what Jesus means here when He says, "Blessed are the merciful." Like we have in most of other phrase studies let’s begin our definition by seeing what Mercy is NOT. It is not just referring to sentimental feelings. Feeling sorry for someone, being sympathetic, is a good quality, but it does not express the proper depth that Jesus is referring to. In fact, James 2:15-16 teaches us that when we see someone in need and only acknowledge the need, that is, feel sorry for them, but do nothing to help them, we’ve really done them no good at all. Mercy is also not just helpful deeds. Some people equate mercy with kindness. And although being kind to one another is a Scriptural mandate, once again it does not express the true meaning of mercy. And mercy is certainly not justice. Justice is getting what we deserve. We talk in legal circles about "placing ourselves on the `mercy’ of the court." In other words, we know we deserve a certain punishment but we are hoping that there will be a relaxing of the penalty, a lesser verdict. But even that does not fully explain the depth of mercy, as Jesus describes it.
The word Jesus uses for mercy is "eleos," and it is full of great meaning. It’s used to describe an attribute of God. God is said to be "rich in mercy." (Eph.2:4) Titus 3:5 tells us that we are saved by His mercy. And Peter tells us that: “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope...” (1 Ptr 1:3)
“Eleos,” in it’s root carries the meaning, "to wash over." In the Greek culture, wherein Jesus lived, it was used in the context of "whitewashing" a wall or "wiping out" an impurity or "canceling" a debt. You see mercy goes beyond sympathy to empathy. It is "love in action." You not only wash out the deed that was done against you but, and here is the real challenge, you find a way to help the person.
You see mercy is an action, not a reaction. "Eleos," has it’s greatest meaning in our key word for this beatitude: we are to be forgiving. But even forgiveness can be too weak unless we understand that we not only are to wipe out the injury done to us by another but we are to also help them to recovery. And that’s the rub isn’t it? It’s one thing to say you forgive, it’s another to become actively involved in mercy.
Mercy’s clearest definition is Jesus Christ. Our Lord didn’t just sit up in heaven and passively say, "Okay, okay, whoever, believes in Me, I’ll forgive them." Jn 3:16 doesn’t say, "For God so loved the world that whoever believes in his son will have everlasting life." It says, "For God so loved the world that he..” what? "..gave (sent) His one and only Son." 1 Jn 4:9 repeats the thought- "This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might have life... This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." By action He demonstrated mercy, His “Eleos,” the white washing of our sins, with His blood.