Let's Study the Beatitudes! Part 6, The Merciful
In late December 1943, a young American pilot of a B-17 bomber found himself in flight during the throes of World War 2. Alone in the skies over Germany, his plane had been shot to pieces by enemy fighters, and his crew were either badly wounded or dead. In a moment, he and his co-pilot noticed a German Messerschmitt fighter off to one side hovering only feet from his wingtip. Fully expecting this fighter to pull the trigger and blast them from the sky, the pilot instead gave them a nod, and flew off.
This is only one story that comes from war time about unexpected acts of mercy. But why are these stories so compelling? Why do they grip us, cause our throats to close, and tears to come? When we read these types of stories, why are we flooded with emotions? Why do we begin to actually feel what the characters of these stories felt? How is it that we experience the German pilots' mercy and compassion, as well as the American Pilots' terror, relief, and gratitude? This is because we are all keenly aware of our desire for mercy, and that that desire is buttressed by an even deeper need for mercy. We long for the compassion, and forbearance of others generally, as well as the pardon, forgiveness, and penalty mitigation from those we have wronged, specifically. Whether we acknowledge it or not, the deep longing and groan of our hearts for mercy shows that we know we are sinners, and that we live in a world wrecked by sin, and we desire pity, and someone to draw near and restore us from this awful condition.
God As Merciful
In Matthew 11 we are given a glimpse through a small opening, into the very heart of Jesus Christ. The curtain is pulled back for but a moment, and we are afforded the privilege of knowing the very heart of the Good Shepherd. Jesus says:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29
It is no wonder that this passage gives so much comfort. Jesus opens himself to us, and we are shown what he is, not merely what he does. We are given the definition of mercy in a person as he shows his love and goodness to those in misery and distress irrespective of their merit.
Remember the man with the withered hand due to the groaning of creation (Luke 6:6-11) whom Jesus calls to himself. He puts the scribes and Pharisees to shame because of their hard hearts and heals the man's hand. Recall the leper who implored Jesus for healing (Matthew 8:1-4) saying “if you [desire], you can make me clean.” And what was the Lord’s response? “I [desire it]; be clean.” In one moment we see mercy embodied, we see what Jesus is, and the unclean one restored by the touch of he who is clean and holy. Lastly, bring to mind the woman of the city (Luke 7:36-50). The woman was despised by Simon the Pharisee, and his disdain transferred even to Jesus because he would dare to entertain such a defiled woman. But despite her background, and through all her tears, and kisses, Jesus lifts her chin to look into her eyes, and his mercy is again displayed as he says softly to her, “your sins are forgiven…your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Our Call To Mercy
All men, whether redeemed or not, have received immeasurable mercy from God (Matthew 5:43-45). But we who have been touched by Christ, healed by his power, comforted by his closeness, and forgiven through his blood ought to be those who desire all the more to be embodiments of mercy as ambassadors of Christ on earth (2 Corinthians 5:20).
We must be compelled to share in the afflictions of others as Christ did; to show concern for their distresses as Christ did; clothe ourselves with affection and pity (with Christ himself) for those hurting. If we have received this great mercy from God then we will be compelled to do the same for others, and represent our merciful Savior here on the Earth. As Christ lives in us, and we are simultaneously members of his body, we are appointed by Christ to represent him to the world. And just as Christ endured the cross for the joy that was awaiting him, so too, we who embody his mercy and draw near those suffering and give them the Lord of their souls, will be immeasurably blessed in our doing.
Nick Muyres is a Navy veteran and lives in Pittsburgh with his wife and children. He is a graduate of Liberty University and is a Certified Biblical Counseling with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. Nick also writes for reformconfess.com