How Do the Merciful Obtain Mercy?
- Carey Kinsolving Columnist
- 2004 12 Dec
How do the merciful obtain mercy?
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy" (Matthew 5:7).
"This verse means if you give mercy, you shall receive it," says Anna, age 9. "It reminds me of the golden rule, 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.'" The golden rule is still golden, but Jesus went a step further when he spoke of loving your enemies. As Christina, 6, says, "If someone is bad to you, forgive them."
If you're skeptical about going out of your way to show mercy to someone in need, consider the advice of psychiatrist Karl Menninger. He said the best way to prevent a nervous breakdown is to find a needy person you can help. For those of us who have lived in a society influenced by Christian compassion, it's difficult to imagine the callousness of a pagan society.
"Let there be a law that no deformed child shall be reared," wrote Aristotle in his celebrated book Politics.
"We drown even children, who at birth, are weakly and abnormal," wrote Seneca, the Roman philosopher and contemporary of Jesus.
In a country where idol worship is common, I visited a Christian couple who started an orphanage for abandoned and abused children. Some of the abused children came to the orphanage because their parents intentionally maimed them so that they could beg more effectively on the streets.
Mercy identifies with the needs of others. It's the reverse of selfishness and self-centeredness. Kinsey, 11, provides a small example of identifying with the needs of others: "When somebody was out of paper, I gave them a few sheets of paper. Then when I was out of paper, they gave me a few sheets. And that was my way to obtain mercy."
The foundation for Christian mercy is the fact that we've been forgiven a debt too large to calculate. For those who have received the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ, there's no room for bitterness or an unforgiving spirit. Any wrong we've suffered from others is small compared to the debt Jesus paid for us on the cross.
Don't worry about personal injustices. God will settle all accounts. "'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord" (Romans 12:19). If you think God's calling you to avenge yourself, you're mistaken. If you suffer for righteousness' sake, rejoice. If you suffer for some other reason, repent.
"Mercy means something that you don't deserve, like if you're in jail and the first day, you get out of jail," says Marcus, 8. "This is mercy."
Marcus, let's go one step further. What if the judge who sentenced you to prison paid your fine? Justice would be served, and you would be free to go.
That's what happened when God sent his son to pay the penalty for our sins. The way to heaven and fellowship with God is now open, but it's not because God's justice has been compromised by his mercy.
"Blessed are the forgiving, for they shall gain kindness and gentle treatment," says Billy, 10. I like Billy's interpretation because forgiveness, kindness and gentleness are three faces of mercy.
While God's grace toward us is based on his mercy, not ours, it's also true that the merciful obtain mercy. Although God's gift of eternal life can never be withdrawn, Christians who act unmercifully risk cutting themselves off from God's blessings of mercy in this life and rewards in the life to come.
Point to ponder: Because you've received God's mercy, be merciful or gracious to others.
Scripture to remember: "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy" (Matthew 5:7).
Question to consider: Does the mercy you've received from God affect the way you treat others?
See real kids talking about God in the Kids Talk About God online TV spots at www.KidsTalkAboutGod.org. Bible quotations are from the New King James Version.
© 2004 Carey Kinsolving