3 February 2009

Blessed are the merciful

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy”
Matthew 5:7

Let’s face it, things have changed. Not long ago, everyone laughed at people in England because if we bumped into someone in a queue, both of us would say sorry. Today, if we mess up and apologise to someone, we’re more likely to be sued than forgiven. Even in church we find it really hard to be merciful.

1. The Meaning of Mercy

Think of the last time you were merciful to someone. Got it in your mind? Now, are you sure you weren’t just being nice to them? Because mercy is much rarer and harder than we think. Mercy is when you’re in the right. Mercy is when the other person is totally and entirely in the wrong. Mercy is when you have every right to be angry, upset and cross – and you don’t use that right. It’s not about letting things go for now so they can be used as a weapon in the future. Mercy means forgetting someone’s mistake forever. We may have every right to be angry in a certain situation. The other person might even refuse to admit their mistake. But it’s only in situations where we have every right to be angry that it’s possible to show mercy.

2. The Motivation for Mercy

Can I ask if you’d call yourself a real Christian? In other words, have your sins been forgiven by God? If they have, let’s think about what that means. If last night God had insisted on His right to be angry with us for the way we’ve lived, then we would have woken up this morning in Hell. But God doesn’t insist on it. He was even murdered on a cross so we could be forgiven. Christians have received mercy on a mind-boggling scale. And here’s the scary thing: Jesus says people who have received mercy are expected to show mercy themselves. (Have a read of Matthew 18v21-35). In chapter 6v15, Jesus warns us ‘if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.’ We have no right to our right to be angry.

3. Are we Missing Mercy?

I wonder if you’ve noticed that non-Christians all seem to know what Bible-believing Christians are against (things like abortion and sex outside marriage). But can they see that we’re for mercy and love whatever someone’s done in the past? Real mercy is really attractive, but people can smell hypocrites a mile off. No one will believe us when we say ‘Jesus is merciful’ if we’re not merciful ourselves.

Is there someone we need to apologise to – even if they we’re the ones who were in the wrong?

Simon Tomkins
Associate Minister