Our church did a sermon series this summer using Disney hits as illustrations of the Beatitudes. As outrageous as it might sound, we have magnificent staff that have turned these Sunday morning’s into thought-provoking and challenging looks at the Beatitudes and what it means to be a follower of Christ. I was especially moved by the sermon by Wren on “Mercy” using The Pirates of the Caribbean. So moved in fact that it’s taken me months to get this post actually finished.
Just to refresh your memory, let’s look at Matthew 5:7: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
I don’t know about you but showing mercy doesn’t come easy to me. I’ve mentioned before that I have a hard time giving others grace and an even harder time giving myself grace. A lot of times in this fallen world, I equate mercy with acceptance. I take the mistaken stand that if I extend mercy to this sinner, then I’m condoning their action.
If someone hurts me, and I forgive them and show them mercy, how are they going to learn?
If someone breaks a rule and I show mercy, what’s to stop everyone from breaking the rules?
But the fallacy lies in the fact that (1) I am not their judge and (2) don’t I wish to be shown mercy for my actions — I am far from perfect?
Wren talked about The Holy Island monastery in the UK and how they were set up as a very rigid organization that had an abundance of rules and stiff penalties for any who broke them. There was one monk who broke the rules by rising too early in the morning and starting his morning praises to God before the appointed time. He was being asked to leave the monastery by the monk in charge because of his dis-obedience. Another former leader of the monastery took off his outer robe and spoke up in the man’s defense saying that if the young monk was going to be asked to leave, then he would need to leave to because he too was a sinner.
In looking at this story we see that the leader had given his life to the law. He was living and acting on the premise that his salvation was conditional on his obedience. But God says that we aren’t to give our lives to the law, but to him.
“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:20
Following the rules won’t get us anywhere. Only by accepting Christ and repenting of our sins and accepting God’s rule in our hearts and lives, will we be able to enter “the kingdom of heaven” that Christ spoke of.
We are to totally change our lives and run wholeheartedly towards Jesus knowing that there are things that God asks us to do and rules that he asks us to follow, but our salvation is not conditional on us meeting those qualifications perfectly, because we never will.
Wren reminded us that each and every one of us matter. God loves us regardless of our sins. But this verse, Matthew 5:7, says that those who show mercy will receive mercy. Doesn’t this seem a little contradictory to the idea that we have already received mercy and that we can’t earn our salvation?
It does seem like that, but in actuality, our freedom in Christ’s death frees us from the law and frees us to show mercy to others. We have to be his hands and feet by being his salt and light. We have to show mercy like God has shown it to us. We need to ask and seek where we can truly be merciful. We need to use our lives to reflect God’s grace by showing the mercy that he has given us to others.
What freedom in understanding that. What relief at recognizing that God doesn’t have me on a scale weighing my sins versus my positive actions. And if God is not doing that to me, why in the world would I do it to myself or someone else?
Do you have any verses that you go back to when you’re struggling with showing yourself or others mercy? I’d love to hear them!