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Why this is important: Nothing moves me to forgive like the stunning knowledge that I have myself been forgiven. Nothing proves more clearly that I have been forgiven than my own readiness to forgive.

To forgive and to be forgiven, to show mercy and to receive mercy: these belong indissolubly together, as Jesus illustrated in his parable of the unmerciful servant.

Interpreted in the context of the beatitudes, it is ‘the meek’ who are also ‘the merciful’. For to be meek is to acknowledge to others that I am a sinner; to be merciful is to have compassion on others, for they are sinners too.

The world (at least when it is true to its own nature) is unmerciful, as indeed also the church in its worldliness has often been. The world prefers to insulate itself against the pains and calamities of men. It finds revenge delicious, and forgiveness, by comparison, tame. God is good and in a good mood. Jesus challenges me to be merciful and to reflect God’s goodness.

We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Master’s [Lord’s] dealings, that the Master is full of compassion and is merciful.

James 5:11 

  • ‘Mercy’ is compassion for people in need. We can distinguish it from ‘grace’: ‘The noun eleos (mercy) … always deals with what we see of pain, misery and distress, these results of sin; and charis (grace) always deals with the sin and guilt itself. The one extends relief, the other pardon; the one cures, heals, helps, the other cleanses and reinstates.
  • I want mercy in my life. Compassion is a wonderful gift from God. I am challenged by Jesus to replicate it in all of my relationships. I am to be a person of mercy. It will bring me happiness and mercy in my own life. Now that is some very good news.
    • “Happy (aka Blessed) are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” | Matthew 5:7
  • Jesus does not specify the categories of people he has in mind to whom his disciples are to show mercy. He gives no indication whether he is thinking primarily of those overcome by disaster, like the traveler from Jerusalem to Jericho whom robbers assaulted and to whom the good Samaritan ‘showed mercy’, or of the hungry, the sick and the outcast on whom he himself regularly took pity, or of those who wrong us so that justice cries out for punishment but mercy for forgiveness.

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