“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” Matthew 5:7
The Greek noun our New Testaments translate as “mercy” is eleos. Vine’s Expository Dictionary defines it as: “the outward manifestation of pity; it assumes need on the part of him who receives it, and resources adequate to meet the need on the part of him who shows it.”
The Old Testament’s primary Hebrew word for “mercy” is checed. William Barclay, in his commentary on Matthew, says of this Hebrew word: “…It is an untranslatable word. It does not mean to sympathize with a person in the popular sense of the term; it does not mean simply to feel sorry for someone in trouble. (It) means the ability to get right inside the other person’s skin until we can see things from his eyes, think things with his mind, and feel things with his feelings.”
Putting the Vines and Barclay thoughts together, we come up with a very high standard for mercy. First, mercy assumes need on the part of the mercy-receiver. Second, it assumes the mercy-giver has resources adequate to meet the need. And, third, to ideally show it, the mercy-giver must place himself inside the skin of the mercy-receiver.
It’s been said that justice is getting what you deserve and mercy is not getting it. Certainly, mercy lives on the same street as compassion and pity. Just as certainly, the person who follows Christ must know this street well. How big a deal is this to God? It’s big enough for James 2:13 to say the one who has shown no mercy will experience judgment “without mercy.” That’s a very sobering thought.
Not only does God expect Christians to show mercy, He is even interested in the way we do it. According to Romans 12:8, He wants it to be done “with cheerfulness.” That sets the bar much higher, doesn’t it? It’s one thing to be expected to show mercy, but it’s something else entirely to be expected to do it cheerfully!
But what makes God think He has the right to demand such a lofty standard from Christians? Putting it simply, He has the right to demand it because He has cheerfully extended mercy to us. As Titus 2:5 says: “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.”
Of course, it shouldn’t be at all surprising that God Himself would extend mercy. Ephesians 2:4 says He is “rich in mercy.” Micah 7:18 says “He delights in mercy.” Psalm 103:8,11 says: “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy…For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him.”
The good news, Christian, is that if you will meet God’s standard by cheerfully extending mercy to others, you will feel the benefit of it as much as them. Proverbs 11:17 says: “The merciful man does good for his own soul, but he who is cruel troubles his own flesh.” Proverbs 14:21 says: “He who despises his neighbor sins; but he who has mercy on the poor, happy is he.” Psalm 18:25 says: “With the merciful, You will show Yourself merciful.” That goes right along with Christ’s words, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
So, Christian, do you want to be pleasing to God in your dealings with others? Do you want to do good for your own soul? Do you want to be happy? Do you want to obtain mercy from God? If your answer is yes, then cheerfully show mercy to others. Just because you have a hammer, doesn’t mean you have to drop it. Just because you are in a superior position, doesn’t mean you have to lord it. And just because you don’t need mercy at the present moment doesn’t mean that you didn’t once need it or won’t one day need it again.