Why Mercy Means So Much More Than, “Please Don’t Hurt Me.”

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Listen to today’s Daily Text

daily text logoMarch 28, 2016

Matthew 5:7

7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

CONSIDER THIS

One of these beatitudes is not like the others. We see all of them fulfilled in the life of Jesus save one.

7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

If there’s one thing that doesn’t happen much if at all for the Son of God it is being shown mercy. Jesus is himself the very personification and movement of mercy. He shows mercy to others beyond anything ever seen before or since, but he is treated with merciless brutality.

So what is mercy? I remember a game we used to play as kids called mercy. Two people would put their right palms upright and together and interlock their fingers. Next they would see who could bend the other’s fingers backwards until the one in pain cried out, “Mercy!” According to this game, and I would argue our most common understanding, mercy means, “Please don’t hurt me.”

I recently found myself in the unfortunate position of being pulled over by the police for speeding. As has become my practice in such moments, I explicitly asked the officer if he would show me mercy. On this occasion he responded, “Why should I show you mercy?” I usually manage some kind of pleading and sometimes the officer relents. This particular time he did not. Again, I was framing mercy in the terms of, “Please don’t hurt me.”

It seems quite different in the Gospel. Take a look at these examples we will later deal with which use the same word for mercy Jesus is using.

As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” Matthew 9:27

A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” Matthew 15:22

“Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. Matthew 17:15

These people aren’t crying out, “Lord, don’t hurt us.” Rather, they are pleading, “Lord, please help us!” If you want to see exactly what mercy looks like, track down those stories and see. In short, mercy looks like divine help in human form. It’s far more, though, than solving a temporal problem. Mercy does not come from an “ought to” mentality. Mercy comes from a deep place of being able to see yourself and your own desperate need in the needs being expressed by the people before you. Mercy comes from the well of compassion who is Jesus dwelling within us. Compassion means to suffer alongside others—to literally enter into their weakness through the compassionate strength of the indwelling Holy Spirit. We don’t condescend to show mercy to others. We come alongside them.

So often we try to provide some kind of help for others in need in order to feel better about ourselves. I guess it’s better than not helping at all, but that’s not divine mercy. True mercy is always about doing things for others in ways that help them feel better about themselves.

Back to Jesus. Maybe I was wrong. What if the Resurrection itself was the ultimate mercy given to the One who so beautifully embodied mercy for us.

Think about that Easter People.

Daily Text MATTHEW 03-28-16

THE QUESTIONS

1. Can you remember a time when someone showed you mercy? Recount that scenario? Was it hard for you to receive it? Why?

2. How is the mercy Jesus shows to people different from the typical ways we tend to think about mercy?

3. What is it about you (and me) that makes it hard for us to ask for mercy? to receive it?

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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. jd.walt@seedbed.com.

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