Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
– Jesus, Matthew 5:7
Jesus, once again, levels the playing field with this statement. The common understanding about mercy is that someone who is wronged allows the other person to go unpunished. Good ol’ Webster puts it this way:
mer•cy |ˈmərsē | noun
Compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm.
The examples I’ve seen of someone actually performing Webster’s model of mercy stinks of self-righteousness. It usually comes with an I.O.U. attached to it or at least an embarrassing entitlement for recognition. It’s ugly, and Jesus sees that.
He says, “Blessed are the merciful, (not because they are doing the ‘right thing,’ or because they are so generous and charitable, but) because they will be shown mercy (and everyone needs the sweetness of mercy).” A true act of mercy comes out of recognition of one’s own need to mercy. This is humility at its most transformational level.
Someone who is truly merciful must have an in-depth understand of who they are. The ability to not run away, but sit compassionately with someone acting regretfully is fostered when we don't run away from our own regrets. If I can sit with my own regrets and know God's mercy, then I will have no problem sitting with the regrets of others.
Now, limitations of all kinds are forms of training to encourage self-development and true freedom. They are tools put into our hands to hew away the stone and flint that keep hidden our higher gifts. They tear away the blindfold of indifference from our eyes, and we behold the burdens others are carrying, learning to help them by yielding to the compassionate dictates of our hearts.
– Helen Keller, Light In My Darkness
Mercy is no longer a religious thing to me. It can easily become an unrelatable, religious-esque word because it’s not one used often, except for in medieval-type movies that use a more epic vocabulary. Yet, I cannot think of a good contemporary replacement for it. It is not just kindness, nor is it just forgiveness. It’s compassionately present, active love. It’s Mercy!
Shawna has taught me that mercy has a lot to do presence. What good is mercy from a distance? Not much at all. This month we celebrate nine years of marriage and fourteen years of being together. We’ve definitely been through a lot and seen the best and worst in each other. That Shawna loves me, loves being around me, loves being with me in spite of days (even seasons) when I’ve treated her poorly is mercy personified. And as she’s taught me about mercy in this way, it has made me more full of mercy.