Sitting on the Mountainside Studies in The Sermon on the Mount

Day 7: “Mercy” 08.09.18

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

On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was brutally assassinated in Memphis. The horrible reality of this event is well-known. Dr. King left a wife and several small children. His assassin was eventually imprisoned for life and died years later while incarcerated. In my view, capital punishment would have been more just. He deserved no mercy. Genesis makes it very clear that showing mercy does not mean that the civil laws can be dismissed. The Word of God tells us:

Genesis 9:5-6 (NIV) 5 “And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. 6 Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.”

There are problems with capital punishment to be sure. But if murder can be proven beyond a doubt, God requires that respect for His image-bearer means that the murderer has lost his right to life. Different topic. Anyway, God might have mercy upon the soul of the murderer, but man must carry out the law. So, we open with a simple point. Namely, the calling to be merciful must not be confused with civil law. If I am a Christian policeman, I might not charge my neighbor in court if he steals my car. But if I am on duty and he steals your car, I must bring charges.

In other words, “turning the other cheek” is a personal decision. It has to do with mercy. It has to do with releasing our right to be hateful and vengeful towards the person who has hurt us. They may not deserve such mercy but that is not relevant. God is merciful to those who do not deserve His mercy. Consider: Psalm 103:10 (NIV) He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.

There are many instances when an act of personal mercy glorifies God as a demonstration of grace. A remarkable example of this occurred once again in the King family. Six years after Dr. Ding’s death, his mother was sitting at the piano during a Sunday night service at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. A crazed gunman enter the sanctuary and approached her. She was shot to death. As she fell to the floor, the gunman was sized and subdued. Dr. King, Sr. held his wife of many years in his arms as she slipped away. There was crying and shrieking and despair. Her body was taken from the church and friends surrounded Pastor King.

Here is the remarkable part. After a short while, the grieving husband insisted on going to the jail to speak with the murderer because such a man was obviously in desperate need of Christ. He needed to repent and to be saved, and the widowed husband had mercy upon the man who broke his heart. He was prepared to forgive him and to present the Gospel!

Mercy is when we treat others better than they deserve. The same way God treats us. Now…it is far easier to show mercy to someone who apologizes and who admits they have hurt us. Consider David’s plea to God after his sin with Bathsheba:

Psalm 51:1 (NIV) Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.

But what if the person who has wronged us does not repent? What if he even spits in our faces? We notice that this topic comes very close to the question of forgiveness. Is there really any difference between showing mercy and being a forgiving person? I’m not sure. We’ll come back to that. But I do believe this: when our Lord called for mercy, he was expecting his own to be merciful because they have received mercy and will receive mercy in eternity. The whole point is not to sit and contemplate whether to be merciful or not. The calling is to have a “Temperament of Mercy” because people are flawed including us.

I have watched too many Christians grow hateful when someone harms them or even disappoints them. They might say they forgive that person, but they act as if THEY themselves have never messed up! In the end, a distain for mercy always resides in the proudest of hearts. The one who is not merciful to others has a very exaggerated belief in their own righteousness. And perhaps such a merciless person is not even saved?

Remember the man who got his debts forgiven in the parable in Matthew 18? Then he tried to choke another man who owed him a smaller sum? What did the owner of the slaves say to him?  Matthew 18:33 (NIV) Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’

The people I fear for most are those who insist they are Christians, but they show no mercy. They have no heart for mercy. This is a heart problem. Leading us to our next verse: “Blessed are the pure in heart.”

Peace. Pastor Alberta

1 Comment

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One response to “Sitting on the Mountainside Studies in The Sermon on the Mount

  1. Mary Henriksen

    What I have found, if I don’t forgive someone, they have a hold on me and I am miserable. The person who has hurt me may not even be bothered by it but I certainly am. When I forgive that person, with God’s help, there is a release of those feelings and I feel free. I have come to a point where it is much easier for me to forgive. I have learned to pray for the person who has hurt me…it’s very difficult to feel anger towards someone you are praying for.

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