Blessed are the Merciful: The Irony of Angry Christians

Posted: February 18, 2011 in forgiveness, The Beatitudes
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Matthew 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
I continue to be perplexed at the anger and rejection that so many Christians heap on people whose sin is obvious and public. What befuddles me is that this is about as far from doing what Jesus did as you can get. I look at how Jesus treats the Samaritan woman at the well, or the woman caught in adultery, or the drunks and prostitutes. What I see in Jesus is a savior who was completely committed to holiness and glorifying God in all he did. Yet, He did not allow that commitment on His part to result in condemnation of those who consistently wrestled with sin and lost. Rather Jesus showed great mercy to those people. He certainly called out their sin and challenged them to live a holy life. But at the same time He empathized with their weakness and sought to lift them to higher things. And He did this even though He never sinned and therefore never needed that kind of mercy.
In the beatitudes Jesus has made it clear that we are spiritually bankrupt and in desperate need of God’s grace and mercy. If you are a follower of Christ you have received that mercy, countless times over. Knowing that we have received such wonderful mercy, how can we do other than to pass that mercy on to others?
In Matthew 18 Jesus tells the story of the Unforgiving Servant. It is about a man who was forgiven a monstrous debt by his master. The debt was so large that it would take the average worker in Jesus day, 200,000 years to earn that much. He was forgiven something he could never pay. The servant later comes upon a fellow servant who owes him the equivalent of about three months wages. That fellow servant asks for time to pay the debt. The man refuses to give him time and in great anger, throws him in debtors prison along with his wife and children. Later, the master hears of this and in his just anger, throws the servant in prison for the rest of his days. Jesus makes the point that He is the master and we are the servants who, because of the cross and resurrection, have been forgiven a debt we could never pay. In light of that, how dare we spout vitriol and anger at people who have sinned against us in significantly smaller ways. How dare we not show mercy to a fellow debtor.
Giving people mercy simply means to not push on them the punishment that they deserve for what they have done. If you throw yourself on the “mercy of the court” you are saying, yes I am guilty but please do not punish me to the extent I deserve”. If you are a follower of Jesus, you have thrown yourself on the mercy of His cosmic court. And you have received mercy. Having freely received, we are to freely give. It doesn’t mean that we fail to call sin what it is. It means that we call it what it is, but we let a person know, we will not heap anger, rejection, punishment or suffering on them, because we have received a far great mercy from the Lord.
There is a symbiotic relationship at work here. We have received mercy from the Lord so we give mercy to others. When we do, we will continue to receive mercy. When we don’t give that mercy, we can be assured that we will not be receiving it. The unforgiving servant learned that sad lesson.
Comments
  1. dhford33 says:

    Great post, Dan. I think it’s interesting that Matthew 5:7, like the other beatitudes, is built on the foundation laid out by Christ in Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. It seems that we fail to show mercy when we fail to acknowledge our spiritual bankruptcy before God. If we don’t get this part down first, the rest of the sermon on the mount becomes nothing more than a moral exercise.

  2. Meredith says:

    Great post! I was just thinking something similar yesterday–I came across a blog absolutely demeaning the creator of a particular women’s Bible Study for a “sin” that he deemed she had committed. The blog essentially suggested that “real Christians” would never participate in that particular Bible Study because the creator had supposedly sinned (the blog author said that he had seen a man in the audience of the video for the Bible Study and that a female instructing a male was sinful). He then proceeded to call her “obnoxious”, “wretched”, and a “disgrace to the faith”.

    I disagreed wholeheartedly with his interpretation of scripture in the first place, but I also kept thinking–don’t we ALL sin daily and fall short of the glory of God? We can’t expect perfection even from our pastors and other instructors of faith. Jesus is the only one who can live up to that expectation. And WHEN our brothers and sisters in Christ DO sin (because we all will), our response is not to be one of hatred, but one of love.

  3. Steve B says:

    Meredith,

    God’s Word says a woman is not to teach or have authority over a man.

    1 Timothy 2:12
    I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.

    For her to teach a man in her Bible Study is against God’s will declared in His Word. But as this blog article points out we should not be angry and hateful towards her in our fallen sinful flesh, but rather we should pray for her in our loving born again Spirit, that God would have mercy on her and lead her to believe and accept his Truth.

  4. Steve B says:

    A thing that is confusing to me is that God chose not to be merciful to all since He doesn’t save all. If He loved all then He would save all. But He only loves and saves a small part of humanity, a remnant. It’s interesting to search the word remnant in the Bible at biblegateway.com.

    Romans 9:27
    Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved.

    Only the remnant, those He chose before the foundations of the world, receive His gift of faith. He is the cause of the remnant’s believing and their receiving his wonderful awesome undeserved love and mercy.

    So it’s hard to understand how He wants us to be merciful to all, and yet He is under no obligation to be merciful to all and in fact has chosen not to be merciful and die for every single evil person, but rather only some of them:

    John 17:9
    I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.

    John 17:24
    “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

  5. Steve B says:

    Romans 11:33
    Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out

  6. Steve B says:

    Also impossible to understand how the Imprecatory Psalms, which “contain curses or prayers for the punishment of the psalmist’s enemies” harmonize with being merciful to enemies:

    http://www.theopedia.com/Imprecatory_Psalms

  7. You are absolutely right. We have freely received mercy and should freely give it. I think sometimes it is in our own immaturity that we as you say “may heap on people whose sin is obvious and public.” I think this is the case for immature Christians. Maturity doesn’t necessarily mean that you have had a relationship with the Lord the longest. I believe maturity comes from studying His word and hearing from Him. Great post, very thought provoking.

  8. Tony Stith says:

    Great post! As the whole sale rejection of all things Christian continues to grow in our society it’s tempting for believers to give into to resentment and anger. Too often we take it out on those who are in bondage to sin, not on the enemy who keeps them there.

    sabbath-meditations.blogspot.com

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