“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
At first glance, it may seem that Jesus is saying we will be shown mercy because we have shown mercy to others. Then we might think we are racking up “mercy points” every time we respond patiently to a screaming toddler, or we choose not to make fun of our boss for sweating through his shirt. And when all is said and done, we think God will look at our tally and reward us with mercy for all the times we have been merciful to others.
In that view, God’s mercy depends entirely on how well we perform.
But if that’s the case, the gospel is bad news for many of us (myself included).
Thankfully, the gospel is the good news that God has freely shown us mercy although we don’t deserve it. Jesus came into the world to save sinners before they ever did something to earn it. God’s mercy flows out of his character. It’s part of who he is, and how deeply he loves his people.
We find that we are blessed when we show mercy, because it’s evidence that we belong to God. Mercy is proof that we have been changed by God’s mercy. It shows we realize that our own forgiveness does not rest on our ability to be merciful. Instead, our capacity for mercy is a sign that we understand God’s forgiveness, and that we want to show his deep and unconditional love.
Father, help me to be merciful to everyone, as a way of showing your love in this world. Amen.