Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. (Matthew 5:7)
Like most boys, I grew up playing dumb games like “Mercy” with my friends. The goal is to grab hands and bend and twist your opponents hands until they cry out for you to stop (or vice versa). And the way you signal you give up is to say, “Mercy.” This probably isn’t the best introduction for a word that has so much compassion and love built into it. The game makes it seem like mercy is merely the whim of a bully who has already gotten what he wanted, not the loving intervention of someone in power who can prevent the worst from happening.
But God shows us mercy all the time. He doesn’t give us what we deserve, sinners that we are. In fact, when we cry out for God to stop our suffering at the hands of others doing evil to us, the fact that he hasn’t smitten them demonstrates his mercy to them. As St Paul notes, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4). We are all spared some degree of just deserts precisely because God wants no one to perish, but for everyone to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).
So Jesus blesses those who show the same patience and long-suffering he does with us. In fact, showing mercy places you in a position of power. You have the power to hold a wrong against someone until they pay…or you can forgive and allow the Spirit to begin the process of convicting their hearts so they say their sorry, make amends as able, and pave the way to potential reconciliation. If we choose the route he (the One to whom all authority in heaven and earth belongs) has taken – to show mercy – then we will be granted mercy at least as much as we’ve had the chance to show it. And to me, the sinner I know I can be sometimes, I can’t imagine a better blessing than to know mercy to available when I invariably mess up.
Thank you, Father, for the gift of mercy and for giving me the chance to show mercy just as you’ve shown me. Amen.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (Matthew 5:6)
Righteousness. We tend to think of people who are self-righteous when we hear that word. Holier-tan thou, good two shoes, spiritual snobs, puritanical. Maybe even someone who’s “so heavenly-minded they’re no earthly good.”
But Jesus has a different perception of righteousness. Set-right-ness. Restored to the good way God intended it to be. Often righteousness and holiness are paired together, holiness being about how we live in relationship to God, and righteousness in relation to how we live with other people. Concepts like fairness, compassion, justice, and kindness come into play with righteousness.
In this day in age when civil injustice and discord are daily found in the news, it can seem like righteousness is a long way off. How much worse for those who bear the brunt of unrighteousness – counted guilty until proven innocent simply because of the hue of one’s skin; left out in the cold of financial stability because one isn’t part of the 1%.
But Jesus promises a day when those who deeply longing for justice, restoration, and goodness for all will finally be accomplished. Indeed, such a person is counted blessed now, despite lacking a world set right! Because in Christ, all things are counted restored and complete in him. He starts that restoration now through the gift of his Spirit. And one day he will share that restoration with all of creation when he returns.
Gracious Lord, thank you for the promise that all wrongs will one be set right in mercy. Amen.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)
Meekness is not weakness. We often think of someone who is meek as someone who is naive or a pushover. We imagine depictions of half-forgotten servants in old Hollywood movies or peasants being run down by a thoughtless noble on horseback. But in reality, meekness is a simple state mind and way of carrying oneself that is gentle and unassuming, but in reality shows rock-solid trust in our Savior.
In America, for some reason, we seem to like a person full of bluster. We perceive it as strength. We think it shows confidence and leadership potential. But most of the time it’s an act. Either the person lacks confidence, or the person lacks humility to realize their in over their heads. Either way, it’s bad. Neither trying to fool others or fool oneself are qualities indicative of true leadership.
No wonder Jesus is happy to make those who are meek heirs. Not merely because they’ve been passed over by the pushy, bullied by the brash…but because the meek who love our Lord show such a deep trust that they don’t have to be anxious. They don’t fear being out of control because they rely on the One who’s fully in control.
This past week, I confess, I have been tempted to leave winsome witness behind in the face of the urgencies of this pandemic and the fight against racism. I entertained the thought that I need to be more abrasive if I ever expect to see change in my day. Thank you, Jesus, for reminding me as you remind us all that I have the option to leave everything in your more-than-capable hands.
Omnipotent Father of mercy and grace, may I decrease so you might increase. Amen.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. – Matthew 5:4
This has been a particularly sorrowful week for our country as we’ve watched racism, brutality, reactive violence, and questionable leadership create a deep feeling of unrest on top of a non-stop pandemic. George Floyd’s family are mourning the loss of their kinsman. Business owners are mourning over losses, some even facing the grief of never being able to open again. Many are mourning over the loss of civility and rule of law as seen in the actions of some police. And of course, we should all be mourning the persistent of racism that never seems to get uprooted from our culture. There is grief enough to go around.
In the most counter-intuitive of ways, Jesus calls all of us who are grieving blessed. You might think him tone-deaf to the spirit of the moment. You might consider him Pollyanna-ish in his promise of comfort. But Jesus is only reconnecting his hearers with the long-standing refrain ever since the earliest OT prophets. God will not let human wickedness and suffering abide forever. Even our self-inflicted wounds resulting from personal sin will not keep his beloved people in chains eternally. If we bring our woes before the throne of heaven, our Loving Father is compassionate, and promises a day of restoration. And we can take heart in this promise, because God has proven himself a promise-keeping God. Just look at the Risen Christ and we’ll see our Lord is as good as his word.
Gracious Father, have mercy on me in my sorrow, and speedily bring a happy issue out of ever adversity according to your Son’s promise. Amen.