There is a saying, “God helps those who help themselves.” What a bunch of hogwash! Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matt. 5:7). This mercy is not merely a response to wrongs committed. It is tenderheartedness toward the hurting, the opposite of callousness or indifference. The transforming grace of God takes an icy heart oriented toward selfish pursuits, comforts, and kudos and melts it into pity for others. Apart from that miraculous transformation we have no prospect of receiving eternal mercy from God. There is mercy for the merciful.
The Life of Death
When the apostle Paul sought to spur the Colossians to mercy, he reminded them of their position in Christ. “If, then, you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1). This is not a call to apathy for this world, rather it is in keeping with our Lord’s instructions to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). God calls us to renounce our self-centered desires in this passing world – to die, and live for Christ’s kingdom. “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:3-4). Consequently, we must “put to death” our sinful passions (Col. 3:5). In addition, we must respond compassionately toward others. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Col. 3:12). This life characterized by dying to self may be what Paul was expressing when he told the Corinthians, “So death is at work in us, but life in you” (2 Cor. 4:12). Mercy springs up from the soil of the soul united to Christ in his death and resurrection (Rom 6:5-11).
Though mercy encompasses more than forgiving wrongs, it certainly includes a spirit of forgiveness. “Bearing with one another, and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you so you also must forgive” (Col. 3:13). The current political climate is characterized by bitterness. The sins of the past are being visited on the current generation by those blind to their own faults and ignorant of the grace of God. The church is to stand out differently. “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:31-32).
Free to Freely Give
Not only is the believer motivated to show mercy by the mercy shown to him, but also he is free to show mercy by the expectation of continued mercy. Later in the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord tells us not to worry because our heavenly Father will meet our needs (Matt. 6:25-32). What tremendous freedom this is! Free from worry, fear, and condemnation. What an opportunity to serve!
“The world reckons those men to be happy, who give themselves no concern about the distresses of others, but consult their own ease. Christ says that those are happy, who are not only prepared to endure their own afflictions, but to take a share in the afflictions of others, — who assist the wretched, — who willingly take part with those who are in distress, — who clothe themselves, as it were, with the same affections, that they may be more readily disposed to render them assistance.” (John Calvin)
So there is mercy for the merciful, but no one is truly merciful who has not himself received mercy. Mercy may be parodied by the arrogant who glory in their generosity, but it is learned by the poor in spirit. They learn it firsthand as recipients. Mercy is a grace that overflows from vessels of mercy (Rom. 9:23) overwhelmed by the torrent of God’s loving kindness in Christ Jesus (Titus 3:4-6). O Lord, make us vessels of mercy who serve living water to a needy world.
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