Matthew 5:7 ~ Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
‘Mercy’ is such a Biblical or Christianise word, right up there with the word ‘grace’. But what does it mean? Shawn Mendes asks for it in his song by the same title: “Even though you don't mean to hurt me, You keep tearing me apart, Would you please have mercy, mercy on my heart?” What does he mean by “mercy”? What is he asking for?
He is asking for compassion. And he is begging it from someone who has the power to hurt him. The Christian shorthand definition for ‘mercy’ is “not getting what you rightfully deserve”.
Which side are you on?
When it comes to mercy there are two sides. We saw that in both the definitions: The person asking for mercy, and the person with the power to withhold it or grant it.
In the song, we only have one half of the picture. We don’t know whether mercy was ultimately granted or withheld. We only know that it was requested, begged for actually.
In our verse, we stand on the other side. We are the ones deciding whether mercy should be granted or withheld. What we don’t know is all the scenarios, all the people in our lives that will be asking for it, verbally or not.
Did he deserve it?
The other thing we can be sure of is that these people, these situations, will never deserve mercy as a reaction. I know this because this lies at the very heart of mercy, in its very essence it is undeserved. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be mercy; it would be justice.
There is no reason for non-Christians to be merciful. Christians themselves struggle immensely with this etiquette. Earthly speaking mercy makes no sense: If it is your right and in your power to have justice executed, why not? Put differently, if you can withhold mercy why wouldn’t you?
It needs to be said here that granting mercy does not condone, that is to deliberately ignore the wrong done or call it good and right. No, not at all. It is giving what you can in the way of empathy, acknowledging what you can do in the way of mitigating circumstances, and instead of reacting in retaliation or criticism, you leave the rest in hands of authority. Sometimes, it would need of others, like the actual authorities, but mostly this will be incapable, just hands of God (Deuteronomy 32:35; Psalm 9:9; Romans 12:19; 2 Timothy 4:8).
Why do we do it?
The parable about the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:23-35 will go a long way in quickly helping us understand why we should be merciful.
The only valid reason to show mercy is that we have been shown mercy.
God’s children should never forget that God Himself had the absolute right to give us what we legitimately deserved: everlasting death. But He showed us mercy. Note: He never called our sin okay, neither did He ever ignore it or write it off. But He showed us compassion, remembered that we are dust (Psalm 103:14), and sent His Son as the ultimate merciful act to make a Way to everlasting life (John 3:16, John 14:6). Hashtag Blessed!