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Aug 30 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 27, 2017 – Matthew 5:7

Do Justice, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Matthew 5:7

Intro: There are two big words in the New Testament that are often confused

Grace and mercy

God is the source of both and both do for us something we cannot do for ourselves. Explaining the difference between them, Dad would say, “Grace is getting what you do not deserve; mercy is not getting what you do deserve.”

Grace is a gift, something unearned
– our access to God through Jesus is through grace (Ro. 5:1-2)
• and we are saved by grace (Ep. 2:8-9)
• grace also supplies us with what we need to live for God
Mercy is a pardon, an instance of salvation
• punishment is suspended, the guilty party is forgiven
• through the generosity of another person, someone is rescued
◦ from an illness, or disability, from suffering or an immediate need

Blessed are the merciful
– unlike the other beatitudes, which could be considered negative conditions,
• this one is taught and highly esteemed throughout the Scriptures
• hosever, that does not mean it is easily put into practice
– like the previous beatitudes:
• the person who has entered the kingdom of heaven demonstrates mercy
• mercy is both an internal trait and an external lifestyle

After “righteousness” we might have expected something else

A religious mind could think,

“Yes, Justice! And it’s about time. For the oppressive tycoons who hoard their wealth and the slackers who think the world owes them a living. Time for godless empires to topple, for gangsters, liars and cheaters to get what they deserve. It’s time for sinners to feel the searing pain of God’s righteous wrath.”

– but Jesus says, “No, that is not what I mean. If you condemn the world, how can you save it?”

For God did not send the Son into the world to judge [condemn] the world, but that the world might be saved through him (Jn. 3:17; cf. Ro. 8:34)

• judgment can be merciless and is always destructive
◦ it destroyed the entire world by a flood in the days of Noah
◦ it destroyed several desert cities by fire and brimstone in the days of Lot

We might be tempted to think that mercy undermines justice
(it does not)
– mercy is not blind, or stupid, or uncaring
• mercy protects a child from harm by putting knives and matches out of reach
• it can also be mercy that holds people accountable for their actions
◦ a woman with the sentence of death hanging over her head was brought to Jesus
◦ his response to her was merciful, but it also held her accountable for her actions

I do not condemn you, either, he said, Go. From now on sin no more. (Jn. 8:11)

– sometimes the merciful action is also righteous one
• God does not consider justice to be opposed by mercy
• he knows how the two can work together

. . . let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises mercy, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things . . . (Jer. 9:24)
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness . . . (Mt. 23:23)

What happens when we start putting beatitudes together?

It becomes apparent how the first four would help to promote mercy
– my own poverty of spirit makes me less critical of others
• my grief enables me to understand the grief of others
• my meekness (humility) causes me look past myself
• hunger and thirst for righteousness become motives for doing what is right
– I notice how the beatitudes are beginning to combine
• to become integrated parts of a whole system or personality
◦ they give me a way to see myself for what I am
(Lately, I have not liked what I see in the mirror.
I’m thinking about getting a new mirror.)
◦ I am a human who is incomplete and struggles to be better person
• the beatitudes tell me that my brokenness does not disqualify me
◦ rather, they sensitize me to God’s gravitational pull toward himself
◦ they show me that the only way to wholeness is through Jesus
– so a person who is made whole, yet who never forgets his or her brokenness,
• is the one who is able to be merciful
◦ the one who receives mercy, receives also an education in being merciful

Should you not also have mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you? (see Mt. 18:23-35)

• maybe this is why Jesus did not say,

“Blessed are those who have received mercy, for they shall become merciful”

◦ because, sadly, that is not always the case – we forget

“Merciful” does not always feel like a blessed state

It feels like losing instead of winning
– it feels like being robbed of justice rather than respecting our rights
• it feels like losing an argument we should have won
• or handing over money we have earned for ourselves
– it’s true that mercy and forgiveness often leave us with a good feeling
• I have always enjoyed showing mercy to people that other Christians have condemned
◦ but everything changes if the person’s offense was against me
◦ if a thief or con artist plundered my home or life-savings
• then showing mercy can be like salt on our wounds
◦ I cannot, will not pray, “Father, forgive” while being crucified–
◦ especially when it seems they bloody hell know exactly what they’re doing!

God does not wish our relationship to hard on us
– but we naturally find our way to all the wrong places
• wrong attitudes, wrong evaluations, wrong conclusions about others
• so it can seem that God is hard on us
– but in his self-revelation to Moses, God’s compassion heads the list

The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy and faithfulness; who keeps mercy for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin . . . (Ex. 34:6-7)

• if anyone knows, God knows how painful mercy can be
Vincent Brummer, in The Model of Love, wrote:

“One of the basic characteristics of forgiveness is . . . that the one who forgives is the one who suffers.
“. . . the person who forgives is the person who has to pay the price for reconciliation. Since . . . it is God who forgives, it is also God who has to pay the price and has to absorb into his own suffering the consequences of the wrong that we have done to him.”

• mercy entails a willingness to feel empathy, to let in another person’s pain
◦ their sadness, confusion, despair, fear, misery

The other night, I watched “Guardians of the Galaxy: 2” with one of my granddaughters. An alien character named Mantis, by touching others could feel their emotions. One of the heroes asked, “You read minds?” “No,” she answered, “Telepaths know thoughts. Empaths feel feelings. Emotions.”

◦ the merciful person is willing to feel feelings

Mercy is not only forgiveness, but acts of generosity

William Barkaly described the Hebrew hesed (mercy) as “an untranslatable word.”
– that is because it has so many possible meanings
• for example: kindness, loving kindness, favor, goodness, merciful
◦ in a similar way, mercy has many different ways to express itself
• when blind Bartimaeus cried, “Son of David, have mercy on me,”
• he was not asking for forgiveness, he was asking for a miracle

Jim Forest observed that “the works of mercy include any action of caring for others, especially those who are most easily ignored, dehumanized, or made into targets of wrath rather than love.”

• it was mercy that sent an emergency response team from California to help rescue hurricane victims in Texas

St. Gregory of Nyssa, “The trap here is to think that compassion is limited to material acts of kindness. But this cannot be the case, since it would limit compassion to the domain of the rich. No, I think it would be better to locate such a virtue in the intention.”

– merciful intention will find a way to help a person in need

In the last line of this chapter, Jesus says,

Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (v. 48)

• in a parallel passage, Luke-s gospel reads,

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful (Lk. 6:36)

• if we place the two sayings side-by-side,
◦ what they tell us is that to be perfect is to be merciful and to be merciful is to be perfect
◦ the Greek word for perfect describes completeness–i.e., a whole person

“For they shall receive mercy”

Twice in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6, I desire mercy and not sacrifice
– in the first instance, he tells the Pharisees to go and learn what this means (9:13)
• the second time, he tells them, But if you had known what this means . . ., you would not have condemned the innocent (12:7)
• in his model prayer, he taught us to pray, And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors (Mt. 6:12)
◦ but, as if that were not enough, he goes on to say

For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions (Mt. 6:14-15)

◦ rather than stop there, I will add a couple more similar quotes

Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you (Mt. 7:11-2)
For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy (Jas. 2:13)

– well then, you are on your way to the courtroom – will the judge be lenient with you?
• will you be given a light sentence or fined to the maximum sentence of the law?
• here is the wonder: You get to decide your sentence!
◦ God has given you this divine authority to choose how you are judged
◦ will it be the most rigid and detailed application of the law? or will it be merciful?

Conc: Here is the strategy I am attempting to practice:

  1. First, to catch myself when I make a judgment about a person
    that he is dressed weird or she is acting odd
    or when I feel ready to write someone off
  2. Take a few slow, deep breaths
  3. Try to imagine that person’s past
    what sort of life has he had?
    what kind of abuse has she perhaps suffered?
  4. Then, soak up all the mercy God has shown me
    and extend that same mercy to them

The more I become the person who does this automatically,
the more I am assured of God’s continued mercy to me

If only we could convince every Christian to be merciful . . .
Then there would certainly be hope for the world

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