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Be Merciful | Matthew 5:7

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What is Mercy?

Mercy is not giving to someone what they deserve.

‘Mercy’ is compassion for people in need. Richard Lenski helpfully distinguishes it from ‘grace’: ‘The noun eleos (mercy) … always deals with what we see of pain, misery and distress, these results of sin; and charis (grace) always deals with the sin and guilt itself. The one extends relief, the other pardon; the one cures, heals, helps, the other cleanses and reinstates.’

The first four beatitudes focus on relationship and dependence upon God. We are to realize who we are in light of who he is, and that should lead us to mourning over our sin. This should give us a humble meekness that causes us to realize our soul poverty and seek God’s righteousness.
But mercy reflects our relationship with others IN LIGHT OF our realization of who we are. True mercy is the result of being poor in spirit, mourning, humble, and hungering and thirsting. It’s not mercy so that people we see me as mercy, it’s a deep mercy that is the result of me understanding me and understanding God.
God is supremely merciful and so Christians who are called to be reflections of God are to reflect that glorious truth out into the world. We are to be the image-bearers of God’s mercy.
Matthew 18:21–35 ESV
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Notice what Jesus is teaching, mercy flows from an understanding of who I am in light of who God is. Mercy naturally flows from the heart of the forgiven.
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