Thursday, 8 October 2009

Hope in the Beatitudes - merciful shown mercy

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7)

Having looked at the attitude of the Christian before their heavenly Father, the beatitudes now seem to move on to our attitude towards people. This will always happen, for as we realise how loved we are by God, this will impact on our view of our fellow man. Love of God always results in an impact on our love of our neighbour – if it doesn’t, then it isn’t love of God. The apostle John clearly summarises this: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loves us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:7-11).

God in his mercy sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins, whilst we were helpless sinners, enemies of God, and certainly not loving Him. Now that the wrath of God has been averted by the sacrifice of Jesus, we can enjoy the love of God in relationship with Him. Now that we have been the recipients of such mercy as this, how can we be anything but merciful to those around us?

Some commentators have noticed a correlation between the first 4 beatitudes, and the next 4. So those who are poor in spirit will be merciful – those who mourn will be pure in heart, those who are meek are peacemakers, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be persecuted.

The poor in spirit are those who recognise they have no right to stand before a holy God. They bring nothing to God, and can approach him only by appealing to his mercy, displayed in the sacrifice of His Son. “But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:4). The poor in spirit have experienced great mercies from God. Knowing and appropriating the mercy of God will lead to a merciful attitude towards others, for we know that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and there is no boasting before God. We are no better than anyone else, no matter how “bad” we might think their sin is. We were under exactly the same sentence before God revealed himself in grace to us. In God’s eyes there is no sliding scale of sin, with some sins worse than others. All sin is offensive to Him and requires death. All sin equally can be washed away and forgiven through trusting in the perfect sacrifice of Christ. How amazing is this? And how offensive it is to our pride! My sin separates me from a Holy God in exactly the same way as an axe murderer’s does. My sin requires the death of a perfect sacrifice in exactly the same way as a paedophile’s does. My sin can be washed away by trusting in Christ in exactly the same way as a terrorist’s can. “Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law” (Romans 3:27-28).

So all of mankind alike is under the same sentence of death. All of mankind alike can be saved from this wrath of God by trusting in Christ to save them. How can we be anything other than merciful to our neighbour in view of this truth?

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