Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy – A sermon on Matthew 5:7 by Rev. Colin Pretorius.
A few months ago we started working our way through the beatitudes. In these kingdom attitudes Jesus tells us what is required of those who wish to enter His kingdom and to live in His kingdom. Let me briefly recap what the first four beatitudes tell us about the kingdom of God:
- only those who are poor in spirit and recognise their spiritual poverty, enter the kingdom;
- only those who mourn over their sin, enter the kingdom;
- only those who have a spirit of meekness, enter the kingdom; and
- only those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, enter the kingdom.
But it’s crucial to remember that the beatitudes are also about living kingdom lives. If you’re part of Christ’s kingdom,
- you’ll continue to be poor in spirit;
- you’ll continue to mourn over the grief that your sin and sin in general causes God,
- you’ll continue to live a life characterised by meekness and gentleness and a hungering and thirsting for righteousness.
These are the kingdom attitudes we find in verses 1-6. And in verses 7-10 Jesus shows us how we are to live out these attitudes. The things that these verses speak about are signs of the fruit of the first four beatitudes. They are reflections of the fundamental virtues of Christian character. Jesus tells us that if you are in His kingdom, your life will reflect and must reflect mercy, pureness of heart, an attitude of peacemaking and a willingness to be persecuted because you want to live with righteousness. Today we’re going to look at the first of these attitudes, the attitude of being merciful.
Blessed are the merciful, says Jesus, for they shall receive mercy.
What does it mean to be merciful?
The theme of mercy is woven through the whole of Scripture. The Bible is chockers with examples of mercy – mostly about the mercy of God. His mercy is so vast, it is indescribable… But when it gets to describing human mercy, we can describe at least a few of its components, and we’re going to look at some of those this morning.
Mercy has to do with love, generosity, forgiveness and with compassion. But none of these things mean anything if they just remain feelings! At its core mercy has to do with action. It cannot and must not remain just a feeling. That feeling of compassion and forgiveness and generosity has to result in doing something. It has to result in ministering to someone. Being merciful means walking with someone, helping, supporting, and sometimes carrying them – even if the people you are ministering to are ones who have hurt you!
But where does this ministry of mercy come from? It comes from Christ living in you. It comes from the fact that Christ has taken up residence in your heart. And because it comes from Christ being in you, it can never be an onerous task, for His yoke is soft and His burden is light.
If you want to boil it down into one sentence you could say that Mercy is about ministering empathy that comes from Christ being in you.
So what does this “ministering empathy” look like in practice? The first thing we can say is that it has to do with compassion in action.