Devotions: Beatitudes (5) — Mercy

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. — Matthew 5:7

Probably next to love, no other character quality so defines God as that of “mercy”.

  • And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” — Exodus 33:19
  • “Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.” — Psalm 25:6
  • “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions” — Psalm 51:1
  • “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us . . .” — Ephesians 2:4

The believer who has experienced such mercy from God now is told in Christ’s kingdom he or she is to be “merciful.” An old Puritan definition of mercy is:

A melting disposition whereby we lay to heart the miseries of others and are ready on all occasions to be instrumental for their good. — Thomas Watson

Mercy is likewise granted to those who show mercy.

Resource Suggestion: Finding Calcutta: What Mother Teresa Taught Me About Meaningful Work and Service by Mary Poplin (InterVarsity Press, 2008) and the related ESN Blog Series.

But what is mercy? Is it just a kind intention from a good heart? Is it just an emotional surge of pity for those less fortunate? Not really. Jesus made this clear in the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:33-37. Even the enemies of Jesus had to admit that “showing mercy” was the Samaritan literally picking up the injured man, putting him on his own pack animal, and taking him to a local inn and then giving the innkeeper the necessary money to care for him. It was an act, not just an intention or a feeling. Perhaps one of the greatest examples of mercy-showing is that of the late Mother Teresa, the celebrated nun who gave her life for the diseased of Calcutta, India.

Showing mercy does not, however, have to be in great deeds of compassion that many see. It can be as small, Jesus said, as giving water to a thirsty stranger (Matthew 25:35ff). Like Jesus we are to win the day with positive, patient, passionate care and life witness. I read a powerful message by Robert Lynn, one of the writers Chuck Colson used to speak to the current culture wars Christians face. He believes the evangelical church and evangelical Christians have been much too negative, much too legalistic, much too in the face of people instead of showing the compassionate care of Jesus. There is an old movie line that goes something like, “I know what you are against, but what are you for?”

Today, dear God of mercy, help me show mercy by my life and deeds. Let me be the hands and feet of Jesus today to someone in need. Help me see beyond the selfishness of those around me to the God who is always showing mercy, and in His Name, let me do the same.


Note: For the Beautitude series follow this link.

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Carl Shank

A Christ-follower and mentor of leaders and churches whose life plan is to make an eternal difference in lives for Jesus Christ. Carl currently serves as the Executive Pastor of Cross Roads Brethren in Christ Church (Mount Joy, PA), President of Carl Shank Consulting, and as a Board Member of the Mount Joy Chamber of Commerce. B. S. in Mathematics from Dickinson College. M. Div. and Th. M. from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia Campus). Carl's insights have been a great encouragement to Thomas B. Grosh IV, Associate Director, Emerging Scholars Network. To God be the glory!

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