January

Blessed are the merciful for mercy will be shown to them

Reading: Matthew 19: 21-35

Mercy is one of the great words of the Bible. It is perhaps one of the most used and least practised within the institutional church. Throughout the ages and daily around the globe the words, “Lord, have mercy” form an integral part of worship. The word used in the Old Testament is hesed. It is usually translated ‘mercy’ but actually means so much more. It incorporates healing and freedom, forgiveness and compassion. It’s sometimes translated ‘loving kindness’ and sometimes ‘steadfast love.’ It describes the character of God’s dealings with his people throughout history - the compassionate God who sees the affliction of his people in Egypt and comes to liberate them; the faithful God who sticks with them through their rebellious wilderness wanderings; the righteous God who allows them to suffer defeat but brings them back from exile and restores them, the steadfastly loving God who, in the ultimate act of mercy sends his Son because we could not cure our own wounded condition. In Jesus we recognise the true nature of the Father’s heart, and from the cross a tidal wave of mercy flows for all people for all time.

All of us without exception, whether we are conscious of it or not, have been blessed by mercy. God has answered this cry from our hearts even when we could not put words to the pleading. Why then are we often so slow to be mercy givers? Why are our lives not bent towards mercy as God’s heart is bent towards us? At the heart of this beatitude lies the challenge to be generous of spirit, compassionate, to identify with those who are defenceless, who are victims of their own or others’ wrongdoing. It’s an attitude that implies decision as well as feeling. It is a call to passionately care – even for those who have wronged us or those whom we don’t naturally like. It is also a challenge to be merciful towards ourselves. Often we reserve the harshest judgement for our own confused and troubled beings.

The cry from the heart of God is that we respond to his great mercy to us by offering ourselves as a living sacrifice to him, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him, that we let him transform us inwardly by a complete change of mind and heart. If we open ourselves up, through the practice of mercy, to such a journey of transformation then both our inner and outer worlds will manifest the hall marks of the kingdom. A new community of mercy givers and receivers can change the church, this island and the world.

Suggestions for Sharing:

  • Is mercy the hallmark of my Christian community?
  • What opportunities are there in my church, my life, my community to be compassionate, to be a mercy-giver?