“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
Two launchpads for meditation that explore the meaning of mercy. The beatitudes tend to be compact expressions of Jesus’ teachings. Jesus’ other teachings often reinforce the beatitudes by exploring them from different angles.
Using the language of logical operators and discrete mathematics, this beatitude is set up as “p implies q”, or “merciful implies mercy”. Later in Matthew, in Matthew 18, Jesus explores this beatitude’s inverse, “not p implies not q”, or “not merciful implies not mercy”.
In Matthew 18, Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive someone who sins against him. Instead of seven times, Jesus says to forgive seventy times seven times. Why such lavish forgiveness?
Jesus clarifies with the parable of the unforgiving debtor. In this parable, a servant owes a king a very large sum of money. But rather than punishing the debtor, the king has mercy on him. Upon being pardoned, the man goes to a fellow servant who owes him a much smaller sum of money. The fellow servant is unable to repay the debt, but instead of extending mercy, the man who had been forgiven offers no forgiveness. Instead, he has his fellow servant put into prison. The king hears the news and throws the unforgiving debtor into prison until the entire debt can be repaid. Jesus uses this parable to describe what his heavenly Father will do to anyone who refuses to forgive from the heart.
Mercy is withheld to those who show no mercy. This expresses the inverse of the beatitude where the merciful are blessed because they will be shown mercy.
But why is the inverse true? Why is mercy withheld from those who show no mercy? It is because to ask God for forgiveness for our sins while withholding forgiveness from someone else is hypocritical. To forgive is an overflow of true fellowship with God. Since God has shown us such lavish mercy, our hearts should be motivated to extend mercy to others.
The second launchpad for meditation explores the connection between being merciful and being shown mercy. As with all the beatitudes, the blessing is a gift. It is not earned. Our being merciful does not merit God’s mercy.
Instead, our mercy towards others demonstrates that we are receiving God’s mercy. To understand this connection, consider how our love towards others demonstrates that we are experiencing God’s love. As 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us”. So, my prayer today is what Jesus taught his first disciples to pray: forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.