The Gift of Mercy

The Gift Of Mercy

Matthew 5:1-7

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

The Shoebox

A man and woman had been married for more than 60 years. They had shared everything. They had talked about everything. They had kept no secrets from each other except that the little old woman had a shoe box in the top of her closet that she had cautioned her husband never to open or ask her about.

For all of these years, he had never thought about the box, but one day the little old woman got very sick and the doctor said she would not recover.

In trying to sort out their affairs, the little old man took down the shoe box and took it to his wife’s bedside. She agreed that it was time that he should know what was in the box. When he opened it, he found two crocheted dolls and a stack of money totaling $95,000.

He asked her about the contents.

‘When we were to be married,’ she said, ‘ my grandmother told me the secret of a happy marriage was to never argue. She told me that if I ever got angry with you, I should just keep quiet and crochet a doll.’

The little old man was so moved; he had to fight back tears. Only two Precious dolls were in the box. She had only been angry with him two Times in all those years of living and loving. He almost burst with Happiness.

‘Honey,’ he said, ‘that explains the doll, but what about all of this money? Where did it come from?’

‘Oh,’ she said, ‘that’s the money I made from selling the dolls.’

Relationships have there ups and downs but could you imagine if you kept a record of every wrong or every time your spouse got you upset or angry? Especially if you have been married a long time? I would think that somehow that would eventually destroy the relationship. In a sense there would be no grace, no forgiveness, no real reconciliation. So is there a better way? Let’s see what Jesus tells us about relationships in The Sermon on the Mount and in the Beatitudes. If you are able, please stand as we read Matthew 5:1-7.

Read Passage – Matthew 5:1-7

 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed
are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

Action Not Reaction

A shift takes place in verse seven of the Beatitudes.  The first 4 Beatitudes (vs.3-6) focus on our relationship with God. In verse 7, Jesus begins to explain and talk about our relationships with other people.

Most of us would define mercy in this way: kind or forgiving treatment of someone who could be treated harshly. So mercy includes compassion, forgiveness, empathy and restoration.

The word Jesus uses for mercy is “eleos,” and it is full of great meaning. It’s used to describe an attribute of God. God is said to be “rich in mercy” (Eph.2:4) and in 1 Peter he describes God’s mercy as “great.” “Eleos,” in it’s root carries the meaning, “to wash over.” In the Greek culture, wherein Jesus lived, it was used in the context of “whitewashing” a wall or “wiping out” an impurity or “canceling” a debt. You see mercy goes beyond sympathy to empathy.

Ex.  Painting or white washing a wall or fence

You see mercy is an action, not a reaction. It’s not a trait that you use when you are offended or when a wrong is done, it’s a trait that you have before that. It’s the choice to make it a lifestyle and character of who you are.

Active Mercy

Based on that understanding of mercy, mercy is active not passive, and as I said earlier, proactive not reactive. As Christians, we are called to be people of mercy. We are not meant to control our Christianity; it’s meant to control us. It’s more about our attitude than our actions. So Jesus says in verse 7:

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

So in this verse, Jesus calls us to be people who are active in mercy. So, from here, we want to try to define what “active mercy” looks like in our life.

  1. Mercy Is Spirit Led

First, going under the premise that “We are not meant to control our Christianity; it’s meant to control us,” real mercy is Spirit led. When we give our life to God and accept the free gift of salvation through the work of Jesus Christ, we have the Spirit of God living in us. It says in Titus 3:5:

“He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit…” Titus 3:5

Most of us understand that the Holy Spirit is our comforter, our guide, our strength but another attribute of the Holy Spirit is renewal.  We are constantly being renewed by the Holy Spirit. Part of that renewing comes in the form of mercy.  It’s seeing others through the Spirit that lives in us. So, we are Spirit led. Romans 8:14 says:

“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” Romans 8:14

When we allow God’s Spirit to lead us, others see that and they see the God we love and have a relationship with. It’s really yielding our spirit to His Holy Spirit.

2. Mercy Is Attitude Driven

Second, mercy is attitude driven. That may sound vague so let me define attitude for you.  It is: a feeling or way of thinking that affects a person’s behavior.  Here’s is a tough question to answer:

Q: What drives you and what drives your actions.

Obviously there are many answers a person could come up with; money, power, prestige, notoriety, fame, etc. Sometimes we think people don’t see that  but the honest truth is that people do see that in us.  We might hide it for a while but it does come out.  In Matthew 23 Jesus is confronting the Pharisee’s on their attitude and what was driving them, he says in vesre 23:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” Matthew 23:23

What was their driving force, their righteousness; but it was a self-made self-driven righteousness, not the righteousness of God. Compare the attitude of Jesus with the attitude of the Pharisee’s:

The Pharisee’s                                     Jesus

To be served                                        To serve

To be honored                                     To give glory to God

To live the law                                    To live God’s way

To judge                                                To free and bring mercy

Ex. Jesus washing the disciples feet.

We are called to imitate and take on the attitude of Jesus. Romans 15:5 says:

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had…” Romans 15:5

When we don’t, there are tow pitfalls that we can fall into.

The Pitfalls: Judgmental & Legalistic

First being judgmental is being critical of others; many times we judge to quickly as well.  Ultimately it usually involves putting yourself above others or making yourself better than others. Of course many people like to put in terms of “I’m telling your this for your own good,” or “I am only telling you this because I care about you.  Ever hear those words and think to yourself, “Oh, I am so glad they are being so critical of me!”

Legalism is the way by which we justify our worth based on our actions. In the spiritual sense it is when we try to claim ourselves righteous through our actions rather than on the work of Christ. More simply put, we are trying to save ourselves through our actions rather than on the free gift of God through the work of Jesus Christ.

3. Mercy Takes Patience

Third, mercy takes patience. It says in 1 Thess. 5:14:

“…encourage the timid, help the weak, and be patient with everyone.” 1 Thess. 5:14

The reason mercy requires patience is we all have our issues, we all have our quirks, and we all make mistakes. We want others to be patient with us and if we expect that of others, we need to be that way as well. Bottom line, a lot of people are hurting, a lot of people are in a lot of pain; and a lot of people make mistakes. Continually. We need to strive to be people of empathy, people of forgiveness, and people of compassion. That takes patience. That takes being a person who is welcoming of people and more accepting of people. Notice I am not saying that you accept their bad behavior or their inappropriate actions.  In Romans 15:7 it says:

“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Romans 15:7

Being accepting of people is a reflection of Christ in your life.

Ex. My diabetes.  Most of you know I have type 1 diabetes. I need to eat at certain times and it’s not really an option.  If you have been around me when I miss a meal or don’t have enough sugar in my blood it is not pretty. I am not this wonderful guy you see right here (hahaha). I get moody, I get grouchy, I get uncomfortable to deal with and you know me, I don’t hide my emotions or feelings too well. You usually know how I feel and I know I can have a big personality. I need patience from other, from you. I need people who will love me in spite of who I am.

4. Mercy Is Reciprocal

Fourth, and we have eluded to this throughout this talk, mercy is reciprocal. Let’s look at two passages that affirm this. This first is 1 Peter 2:10:

“Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” 1 Peter 2:10

The real reason we are called to be merciful is that we have received it. Because it has been granted to us, we are expected to extend it to others. Ever been generous with someone and then expect them to show that same generosity to others. There is a story in the Bible about that. It’s found in Matthew 18:21-35: There’s a man who owes the king a lot of money. He can’t pay. He begs for mercy. The king grants him mercy and he walks away debt free.  Just afterward he runs into a man who woes him a couple of bucks.  When the guy can’t pay and begs for mercy, the forgiven man won’t give it to him and has the man throw in jail until he can pay. Hen the king hears about this he is furious, calls the man back in and throws him in jail until he can pay his debt. The point of the story is that mercy is to be reciprocal.

Jesus also teaches this when he teaches the disciples in prayer; the Lord’s Prayer as we call it. It says:

“Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.“ Luke 11:14

The great thing about this is that God built in a way for us to experience this mercy. You experience this every month; in our communion service. Where we remember our sins, ask for forgiveness and are forgiven. We are expected to then put that into our life too.

Amazing Grace

Let me end with the story of  a man named John Newton.

John Henry Newton b. July 1725

Mother, a devout Christian, died at 6

Father, a sailor, never home

At 11 went looking for his father, found him and sailed six voyages with him before his dad retired and then really didn’t want much to do with John

At 18, while going to visit some friends was capture by the British and pressed into service in the Royal navy, this was a pretty common occurrence at this time in history. He was treated like a slave and pretty much abused. Only problem, he was a real trouble maker. The navy had difficulty keeping him in line. They finally drop him off  in Africa to a salve owner and this guy gives John to his wife as a servant.  Records show he was abused and mistreated for the time he was there. His father one day decides to look for him and rescues him from this situation. Once rescued and settled he found a job on a slave trading ship, Brownlow. During the first leg of this voyage, while in west Africa (1748–1749), Newton acknowledged the inadequacy of his spiritual life. While he was sick with a fever, he professed his full belief in Christ and asked God to take control of his destiny. He later said that this experience was his true conversion and the turning point in his spiritual life. He claimed it was the first time he felt totally at peace with God.  Within a few years he became a writer and an Anglican priest. Because of his tumultuous life and his “issues” he had with God, he became a writer as well.  It’s from this man that we have the words of one of the most famous hymns ever written; Amazing Grace.

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Chorus:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

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About ronbow16

Pastor
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