(In 2017, I wrote this series for the 40 days prior to Easter to prepare our hearts and minds for the significance of Jesus’ resurrection. I’m reposting the series now for the 40 days after Easter to encourage us to follow through, living in the risen Savior and King.)
In yesterday’s devotional on Matthew 5:6, “Jesus fills”, we noted that the Lord encourages those who follow Him to seek and find fulfillment in His righteousness, not their own.
But even when we seek with all our hearts to trust in Jesus and walk in His ways, we run into people who are running in the opposite direction – even running over us. What are we to do with that? Again, Jesus encourages His followers.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)
Today’s devotional is the sixth in a mini-series on the Beatitudes. At the end of Matthew chapter 4, the Lord had just returned from His 40 days of being tempted in the wilderness, had begun preaching repentance for the Kingdom of God, had called His first disciples, and had begun reaching out to the undesirables of the world. Then, in Matthew 5, He tells those who have gathered around Him what it will mean to follow Him.
When we follow Christ, we will necessarily encounter resistance from others who only follow their desires.
If you gently express your concern over some song lyrics in your child’s school dance, some other parents may label you – maybe even outloud – as a “holier-than-thou” kill-joy. If you give your absolute best to serve others every day, some family, friends and co-workers may take advantage of you in order to do less in their own areas. If you have a good reputation, you may convict some non-believers who will look for any opportunity to point out that you’re not perfect. You might even have fellow church members sin against you in big or small ways and just expect you to forgive them, so they never really repent of their ways toward you or even say that they’re sorry.
But be encouraged. That’s exactly how others treated your Lord and why He blesses the merciful: they are people after His own heart.
Mercy doesn’t mean that the other person didn’t really do anything wrong or that their offense was “no big deal”. When the followers of Jesus extend mercy, they do so because they know they are not the other person’s judge. In fact, they have stood before the only Judge and received mercy instead of justice. Now they trust Him to vindicate and defend them, and they want others to know this Judge who is also Savior and King.
“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6)
“This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.” (Zechariah 7:9)
“As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” He told him, and Matthew got up and followed Him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with Him and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:9-13)
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” (Matthew 23:23)
“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:12-13)