“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (Matt. 5:7).
There is a great word in the Bible. It is the word eleos, or mercy. Mercy has been defined as the outward manifestation of pity; it assumes the need on the part of the person who receives it, and resources adequate to meet the need on the part of the one who shares it.
According to Ephesians 2:4-5, God is rich in mercy. The Bible says, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us. Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace are ye saved).”
The Bible teaches that people are born dead in trespasses and sin. There is physical life, but no spiritual life. Because there is no spiritual life, there is only a state of corruption, suffering, and misery under the avenging justice, and terrible wrath of God. This state of spiritual death is a corruption of the heart, so that all the powers of man’s soul work is in opposition to God.
Because he is spiritually dead, man’s understanding is darkened to the point that he does not know the good, but loves a lie. He is utterly void of true wisdom, though he has much knowledge.
The will of the natural man is perverted so that man does not, and cannot desire and choose for righteousness and holiness in the love of God. All of the inclinations of the natural man are impure and defiled, so that he longs for acts of iniquity.
In the hour of final death, the heart of the natural man, instead of being filled with the love of God, is moved by hostility against Him. Following the counsel of Job’s wife, they curse God and die. This is the terrible state of the natural man, the sinner apart from Christ. He is carnal. His nature is fleshly. The Bible says, “they that are after the flesh, do mind the things of the flesh…for to be carnally minded is death… because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”
Since man is helpless, hopeless, and defiled by nature, and by choice, God must show Divine pity upon him. In marvelous matchless grace, the Bible reveals that God does indeed set a special love upon the elect. “He loved us,” says Paul. “Even when we were dead in sins Christ loved us and He made us alive together with Christ.” No one who is the object of Divine mercy can ever earn or deserve it.
The mercy of God reaches out to all mankind. Jew (Luke 1:72) and Gentile (Rom 15:9), rich or poor, young or old, male or female can know the mercy of God. The mercy of God is expressed most often in the gifts of life. To be clothed and fed, to be housed and provided for day after day, year after year, is part of the great mercy of God. This is why we must not take God’s common grace for granted. There are those who do not bother to pray before they eat to thank the Lord for the provisions of time. There are those who neglect to thank the Lord for the health and happiness of many years. There are others who spurn the mercy of God. They chose sin over the Saviour, hell over heaven, war over peace, sadness over laughter, and darkness over light.
By the millions, individuals spurn the mercy of God in the same manner that a mad dog will bit the hand of the master that feeds it. Of course, not all people neglect, or reject the mercy of God. Many fear Him. Luke 1:50 says, “His mercy is on them that fear Him from generation to generation.” The Bible declares that, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
To fear God is to dread doing anything that would cause His face to frown. To fear God means that there is a longing not to do anything to provoke Him to anger. When a person stands in this true fear of God, God moves to comfort. He shows pity. The Lord delights to show mercy. Because this is true, Hebrews 4:16 teaches us to pray boldly for mercy. If a person is the recipient of mercy, if a person prays for Divine pity, then it is only right that mercy be shown to others. “Blessed,” said Jesus, “are the merciful.” It is the mark of a Christian to want to show mercy to others. Mercy can be shown in many ways. Mercy can be shown by the lips. The poet wrote,
“If any little word of ours,
Can make one life the brighter;
If any little song of ours,
Can make one heart the lighter;
God help us speak that little word,
And take our bit of singing,
And drop it in some lonely vale,
To set the echoes ringing.”
From time to time we need to be reminded that,
“A careless word may kindle strife,
A cruel word may wreck a life;
A bitter word may hate instill,
A brutal word may smite and kill;
A gracious word may smooth the way,
A joyous word may light the day;
A timely word may lessen stress,
A loving word may heal and bless.”
It is a gracious person who can speak words of mercy to those who are hurting.
Second, mercy can be shown by acts of kindness. The story is told of a soldier, worn out in the service of his country, who began to play the violin on the streets of Europe in order to earn a meager living. He was found in the city of Vienna playing his violin. After a time his hand became more feeble and he was unable to play much.
One day, while he sat weeping, a man came up and offered something very remarkable. He offered to play the violin, and he did. It was not long before a crowd had gathered and coins began to drop into the container. The whispers went around the crowd. “Who is that playing?” and the answer came back, “Why that is Bucher, the great violinist.”
For just a little while the great artist had taken a man’s place. He had assumed his poverty, and borne his burden and played his music, and earned his livelihood. He showed mercy by an act of kindness. We as Christians can show mercy by acts of kindness to someone each and every day.
It is a gospel duty to seek to show mercy to others. Many years ago in England there lived a man by the name of Lord Shaftesbury. One day some strangers were going to meet Lord Shaftesbury at a railroad station. The strangers inquired of mutual friends, “How shall we know his Lordship?”
And the reply came from one person, “When you see a tall man getting off the train and helping somebody, that will be Lord Shaftesbury.” Sure enough, a tall man alighted from the train, carrying in one hand his suitcase, and in the other hand the three bundles of an older working lady. Isaiah 41:6 teaches that there will be a day when everyone will help his neighbor.
There is a third way mercy can be shown in addition to life, and lips, and that is by disposition. The story is told of an old couple who quarreled so frequently that the whole community knew about it. Suddenly they stopped their bickering. A neighbor wanted to know why, and so approached to ask what had happened. “Two bears did it,” said the wife with a twinkle in her eyes. “These two bears are found in the Bible,” offered the husband: “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and Forbearing one another in love.”
In order for peace to come into a life, in order for kindness to be expressed, in order for mercy to be genuine, there must be a change in the disposition. The inner person must change. By life, by lip, by disposition the merciful are blessed and become the recipient of Divine mercy. This is only proper since mankind receives so much of Divine mercy.
I trust you believe that. Never stop believing that God is full of tender mercy towards mankind. There is a temptation to contend that God does not really care what happens in this world. When terrible things occur in life, people begin to question the love and mercy of God. That should not happen. Not a sparrow falls without His knowledge. Not a rain drop splashes to the earth without His approval.
Not a hair of anyone’s head is lost without His observation. He works all things according to the counsel of His own will. Not all things are good. Disease is not good. Death is not good. War and famine are not good, but God is good.
There is a Divine purpose even in evil. What we must remember is that there is more to life than the bad things that happen to good people. There is the opportunity to show love and kindness, compassion and mercy. God is watching to discover who will have mercy on others, because He will move to exact some measure of justice on those who do not have a disposition of compassion.
For the Christian community in particular, there is a current example of this biblical principle. It was not many years ago that the leaders of a particular television ministry in South Carolina had no mercy on the thousands of contributors who sent them money. The money was not used for the work of the ministry, but to support a greedy lifestyle.
The appetite of greed was never, and is never satisfied. When the time for sentencing came, the Judge showed no mercy on the leaders of the television ministry and gave the maximum penalty the law allowed. We warn again. In this moral universe, God shows mercy on those who will show mercy to others. God shows less mercy when mercy is not asked for, or demonstrated. There are wages to pay for sin and payment of sin in time may very well be a jail term, a mental collapse, or public exposure and shame.
Let the people of God show tender compassion and pity towards others. The greatest mercy we can demonstrate is to give out the gospel. What a wonderful gospel we have to share. We can tell others about the gift of eternal life. We can go out and proclaim that the Lord is still rescuing precious souls from the penalty and pollution of sin.
There is another way we as Christians can demonstrate mercy, and that is to minister within the family of God. One day there shall be a final accounting. What a wonderful thing it will be to hear from the Great White Throne the King saying, “Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungered, and thirsty, and a stranger, and naked, and sick, and in prison, and ye ministered unto me.”
Perhaps the Lord has set before you someone to show special mercy to. There are people all around who need extra grace, like Don Bartlette. Don Bartlette was born with major physical handicaps- a nose improperly placed, no upper lip, a gaping hole in the roof of his mouth. His father rejected him. The children in town called him names, laughed, kicked, and spit at him. His first and only friends were the rats in the dump outside of town. But then one day a prominent white woman in the town saw potential in this young Indian boy.
She invited him into her home. She taught him to eat in new ways, how to speak for the first time, and how to read. She arranged for corrective plastic surgeries. She told him about a loving Heavenly Father. But how could he understand when his own father didn’t love him? For years Don rejected the idea of anyone, even God, loving him. And then he discovered the love of Christ.
“Jesus Christ helped me,” he now says, “to accept myself, my reconstructed nose, my speech impediment and my Indian heritage as I learned how to relate to all people. I learned that there is a time to be born, a time to die, a time to cry, a time to laugh, a time to hate, a time to love and a time to forgive. I began forgiving and I began loving the very people that rejected me.” Don Bartlette is able to do this because someone had mercy on him.
Because the Christian has been shown great mercy by God, let every believer show mercy to others.