The Upside-Down Blessing – pt 5 – Mercy

Blessed are the Merciful for they will receive Mercy – Matthew 5:7

We are taking a look at Christ’s powerful opening to the sermon on the mount in the gospel of Matthew. He makes a set of surprising and upside-down statements that Christians call the beatitudes. This is post number 5 in the series. If you’d like to start from the beginning click here.

Mercy

To understand mercy is to know all about the type of situation where mercy could happen. In order to set the stage for the potential of mercy, then we need to have a scenario where one person has a LOT of power.

For you and I to be able to show mercy, first… we have to be winning. To show mercy, you first have to be in charge, in control, and able to press your advantage. Mercy… is when you back off even though you’re right.

It’s best understood from the position of one who sits in the judge’s chair. Someone has hurt you, sinned against you, offended, wounded, abused, taken advantage of, and more… But in this moment, you get to pronounce the sentence. And it should be a big one, but in an act of mercy you lessen the sentence or lighten the punishment against those who have wronged you.  It is NOT an easy gift to offer.  When we have been hurt, mercy is often the last thing on our minds. 

Another great example could come from parenting. When–purely hypothetical here–when you ask a child to do a chore and it sits undone for hours, days, weeks and you have asked, compelled, commanded… and it’s just not happening. One could argue that a parent has a right to escalate, and escalate, and escalate until little johnny has lost all toys, and privileges, and can only look wistfully out the window. But… that’s not always the way, is it.

Backing down is an act of grace, it often gets people’s attention. Interestingly (if you’ll note the wording in the two paragraphs above), mercy is never surrender. It’s not giving up, or conceding defeat–that lawn will be mowed–rather it’s what happens when you bring love into the conversation.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

1 Corinthians 13:4-6

Christ’s upside-down blessing is less about who’s right and who’s wrong or questions of law that might compose the beginning and middle of a trial. It’s more about what happens at the end… sentencing.

The crime has been committed, the trial is over, and a guilty verdict has been rendered.  Justice has been found.  Sentencing is about consequences and/or punishment.  It’s your chance to “make them feel it”. How upside-down then for you, at that moment to choose… “I’d rather you experience the grace of Christ than the wrath of… me.”

The transgressor is still not off-the-hook or un-wrong, but now love has come into the story. In this moment, you choose to lighten their load. That is mercy.  It does not exist to lessen the impact of the transgression, but to show compassion.  Mercy leaves the door open for healing, for the possibility of reconciliation, growth and new life. 

It also lets people see the love of God in you, if you do it right and it’s an honest extension of your love. Doing it wrong would be something like saying “look at me I’m showing Christ-like mercy, and that’s how much God loves you… you’re welcome” …don’t do that.

Mercy needs to come from your love, not your sanctimony, but from your love… the love that God teaches you to have. Learn to love like God loves, and practice that love through mercy. If you’re thinking, this sounds a lot like forgiveness, then gold star! Mercy is very forgiveness-adjacent.

And this upside down blessing from God says that if you show mercy, then you can trust that God will show mercy to you. The best way to ask for the Mercy of God is to show mercy to others.    

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