Matthew 5:7 – “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy”
While one side of the coin of mercy involves releasing the debts of those who have done us wrong the second side involves:
- Restoring the Downtrodden
In Luke 10:25-37, in response to a lawyer who was looking for a loophole in love, Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan. This lawyer asked the question “And who is my neighbor?” because he was looking for Jesus to set a legal limit on love so that he would know who he had to help and who he would be able to ignore. While human nature desires to focus on the minimums Jesus directs us to major in mercy. Jesus shows us the meaning of mercy by sharing a story about a man who while journeying from Jerusalem to Jericho was jumped and left for dead. Jesus didn’t just tell us this parable to engage our emotions he shared it to show and paint a vivid picture of the four dimensions of mercy.
Notion is always the first step, for until we notice the need we will not be able to meet the need. The priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan all saw the situation but only one actually perceived a person in pain. Scripture says that: “A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.” On this same road as the man who had been robbed were two religious men, men who had experienced the mercy of the messiah yet were not moved to be his ministers of mercy. They had been in God’s presence but somehow God’s presence had not permeated their hearts. “But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.” It was the Samaritan, the enemy of the Jew, that had a notion that something was wrong. He didn’t just slow down, he was willing to stop and shift his whole schedule for a stranger. They all saw but only the Samaritan stopped, it was the one who was considered to be the racial heretic and not the religious who helped. There is always a price to be paid when we choose the path of Mercy, compassion cost him his time and his treasure. Mercy didn’t just move him to see it moved him to stop and lend a healing hand. It’s not enough to notice, compassion calls us to care. We all see things but until we care we just walk on by. Erma Bombeck shares a powerful story about a time that she was waiting for a flight in an airport. She was reading a book in an effort to shut out the world around her when: A voice next to me belonging to an elderly woman said, “I’ll bet it’s cold in Chicago.” Stone-faced, I replied, “It’s likely.” “I haven’t been to Chicago in three years,” she persisted. “My son lives there.” “That’s nice,” I said, my eyes intent on my book. “My husband’s body is on this plane. We’ve been married 53 years…” Bombeck continues, “I don’t think I ever detested myself more than I did at that moment. Another human being was screaming to be heard, and in desperation, had turned to a cold stranger who was more interested in a novel than in the real-life drama at her elbow. She talked numbly and steadily until we boarded the plane, then found her seat in another section. As I hung up my coat, I heard her plaintive voice say to her seat companion, ‘I’ll bet it’s cold in Chicago.’” (“Please, Listen,” Chicago Sun Times, February 26, 1977). Do you have any notion of the needs around you? What if we asked God to let us see the people around us through His eyes? Do you see those around you as an inconvenience and interruption to your plans or as an opportunity to introduce them to love? Do you see people as a problem and a pain or as a privilege and people who need to hear about God’s plan of peace? The second dimension of mercy that we see is:
All three saw the need but only the Samaritan felt the need, it says that he: “felt compassion for him” Mercy begins when others hurt comes into our heart. Are you bothered when another is beaten down? If anyone should care and carry compassion to the wounded of this world it should be Christians, yet often our response is one of callused carelessness. Why don’t we restore the downtrodden, because religious indifference has infiltrated and infected us, hardening our hearts and making us tough when we should be tender. Are you indifferent to the pain of other people, impervious and uncaring, have you become comfortably complacent to the cries and cares around you?
The Samaritan saw the need, felt the hurt and then hurried to heal. Compassion is more than just an attitude its care in action. Verse 34 says: “he went to him…” Mercy always involves motion. What direction are you heading, do you hurry to heal or do you head for the hills? Some of us see the need and shake our heads, others of us feel bad but it’s those who move to meet the need that demonstrate mercy.
When the Samaritan had a notion that something was wrong, he was moved in his emotions, he went into motion, and then demonstrated devotion. He didn’t just bandage what was broken and move on, no mercy compelled him to put the man on his own donkey, which meant that he had to walk. He didn’t just take him to and inn, he took care of him. He didn’t just see this person’s pain he made it personal. The next day, he paid the innkeeper two silver coins, and then promised to come back and take care of any extra expenses. How far are we willing to go for the wounded, are we willing to pay the price for another person’s pain? By telling this story Jesus changed the question from “Who is my neighbor?” to, “Whose neighbor am I?” He didn’t just rephrase the question he refocused it, from one that focuses on the claim that others have on our time and treasures to one that reframes reality and forces us to focus on what we owe to those stuck in a season of suffering. The real issue is one of character, not of criteria, it’s about being a neighbor not about defining a neighbor. The answer to the question comes in verse 37: “The one who had mercy on him.” To which Jesus says, “Go, and do likewise.” Our neighbor is anyone in need, but the greater question is are we going to be ministers of mercy? What about you will you dress the wounds of the despised and the downtrodden? Are you going to wade in or just walk on? Adrian Rogers talks about three groups of people: The beater-uppers, these people say, “What’s yours is mine, and I’m going to get it.” The passer-uppers, they see the need but walk on by, saying “What’s mine is mine and I’m going to keep it.” The picker-uppers, who say “What’s mine is yours and I’m going to help you.” As you reflect on your life which group do you tend to gravitate toward? In this Beatitude Jesus reminds us of the law of reciprocity, that those who are merciful “will be shown mercy.” This is the only Beatitude where the promise is the same as the condition. You see the more we understand how much mercy we’ve received, the more we will be willing to give God’s gift of mercy to others. Who are the downtrodden God is calling you to respond to and restore? The need is all around us if we would just live like the Lord and take the time to look and listen to the cries of those who called out for His mercy. Take some time right now to read through these scriptures and hear the cries of mercy found in the book of Matthew:
9:27: “As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David!’”
15:22: “A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly…”
17:14-15: “When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. ‘Lord, have mercy on my son…’”
20:29-34: “Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!’ The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!’ Jesus stopped and called them. ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ he asked. ‘Lord,’ they answered, ‘we want our sight.’ Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.”
What about you, will you meet the cries of this world with the compassion of Christ, will you be His minister of mercy?