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The Beatitudes: Day 8

Blessed Are the Merciful

by

Today's Text: Matthew 5:7, James 2:15-20, Matthew 18:21-35

Text: Matthew 5:7, James 2:15-20, Matthew 18:21-35

I recently deleted the Facebook app from my phone in an effort to scroll less and live more. I’ve begun to realize how often I scroll and just how terrible it makes me feel. A quick scan of my social media feed this morning inspired plenty of emotion in me, but not an ounce of understanding, compassion, or grace.

We live in a time of outrage, not of mercy.

Reading all these passages about mercy, then writing about it and thinking about it, only made me more confused. It’s like when you stare at a word so long that, suddenly, it no longer seems to be spelled correctly, or the true meaning of the word escapes you altogether.

So what exactly is mercy? And why do I see so little of it in my own heart for others?

After thinking it over and working through these scripture passages, this is the best I’ve got: mercy is standing before someone who deserves punishment, and then throwing them a party instead. You’d think it would be easy to accept a free party. But we’ve all been taught from an early age that “there’s no free lunch.” How can we live in a world of dollars and cents, blame and responsibility, and yet still accept mercy?

The story in Matthew 18 shows just how hard that is. We’re not told why this man had so much debt, but it’s probably safe to say he over-leveraged himself or gambled his way into oblivion. He did something that the rest of the world—from a place of safety or self-righteousness—might call foolish. And yet the king took pity on him, forgiving not only his debt, but also the character flaws that had landed him in debt in the first place.

But when the forgiven man walked out of the king’s presence, he made a beeline for the first person he could think of who owed him money. What if the king were to change his mind? Perhaps next time, the king won’t be so merciful. And so, loved by a king, the man became a tyrant.

Furthermore, his beliefs about the king became a self-fulfilling prophesy. He didn’t trust mercy, so he didn’t extend mercy, which landed him in prison—exactly where he’d expected to end up all along. When he reached prison, I imagine he felt justified: I knew he’d come after me all along.

This man’s behavior is familiar territory. At times, I find that I expect God to come back around, change His mind, and demand payment for all of my mistakes. Worst of all, I believe the difficult situations that come my way are His punishment in disguise, rather than believing the circumstances of my life are God’s best for me. But God has no punishment left for us (Romans 8:1).

God is not waiting for me to mess up. He is not standing, ready with a long list of all my other failures, to justify why the mercy I thought I received didn’t actually count. Jesus loves me—and you—fully, deeply, permanently. It is final and it is finished (John 3:16; 19:30).

Thinking through all this helps me to see myself and the people around me with new eyes. It even changes the way I look at my Facebook feed, believe it or not. There is no one we’ll encounter today, on our social media feeds or elsewhere, who is not in need of mercy. And you and I have the privilege of extending it to them, because Christ has secured irrevocable mercy for us.

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Claire Gibson is a freelance writer and editor whose work has been featured both locally and nationally in publications including The Washington Post, and Entrepreneur Magazine. An Army kid who grew up at West Point, New York, Claire is currently growing roots in Nashville, Tennessee. She loves her husband, Patrick, and their dog, Winnie.

  • Charmaine McBride

    And so, loved by a king, the man became a tyrant.

    Thank you for this truth today, God after being shown your great mercy, help me to show great mercy and not be critical, unloving and full of my own judgement.

  • Kasey Summers

    So so good. Love this. Needed it so!

  • This is such perfect timing because I have a bit of a strained relationship with my roommate. One night, she called out all my flaws and things she didn’t like in me as a roommate, and now I’m always so tempted to call her out for things in her that frustrate me. But I’m not called to live like that. I’m called to be forgiving, and to love through it all. So encouraged by this, and I pray God will always remind me of this when I’m tempted to judge or condemn.

    • Kristie

      Seeing this comment made me think about my ex roommate. She doesn’t have Jesus and she is so so hateful. I always thought that God put me with her for a reason, maybe I’d be the one who was kind to her and maybe I could shine a light to her. However, one night I was lying awake I realized that she and I were not kind to each other and I moved out the next day. This was probably one of the best things I could’ve done for myself, although I still wonder what was the purpose in that? Why did God place her in my life? (I ask that a lot these days being new at college.) Now though, I think I have an idea. I’m pretty good at holding a grudge, but who am I to hold a grudge when there is a God who loves me despite my sins. He is so good! Seeing this comment, and reading this truth today gave me some perspective on something that has been aging me for months even after moving out. Everything is perfect in his timing!

  • MrsCBerger

    I’m a few days behind and this was perfect timing. I went to bed last night talking to God about what thanksgiving is going to look like and how does he want me to respond to a certain family member?! Forgive is his response to me this morning. So very thankful for you all @SRT!

  • Jana Wright

    Oh Wow, Claire! This is so so good! I am behind a few days so I just read this today! Thank you for your ministry in words!

  • I’ve been reading Bonhoeffer alongside the Beatitudes because Bonhoeffer and the Beatitudes go together like peanut butter and jelly, basically. The passages today reminded me about what Bonhoeffer has to say about cheap and costly grace, and I thought others might appreciate it too.

    “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

    “Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.

    “Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

    “Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”

  • Yes I do, Carly! I do not have an answer for the right balance with that, but also do struggle with that with some family members. Currently praying for what to do in a situation. Will say a prayer for you too and the wisdom you need in the work you do.

  • Does anyone else struggle to find the line between showing mercy and enabling? I work with teenagers and I try so hard to be loving, forgiving and merciful, but I am also an enabler and don’t want to put them in a position where they can’t learn from their mistakes and take responsibility for their actions.

    • Denise

      God forgives us of our sin but we still have to live with the consequences of our sins. If we steal and repent and ask for God’s forgiveness He will forgive us. But we must pay the fine or go to jail to satisfy man’s laws. Yes, Carly, it is a struggle to not let our tender hearts cross the line from mercy to enabler. Personal responsibility is something that we must both model and teach. Loving sometimes needs to be tough love.

      • raschknits

        Denise, such a good description. Husband is a LEO and works with kids, and often has to walk this line.

    • Robin W.

      Carly, I also work with high school students. I understand your dilemma too well. Several years ago I read a book called The Return of the Prodigal Son and it has helped me, personally, to draw boundary lines. When the son took his inheritance and left, the father chased him all the way to fence. When the son returned, the father met him again at the fence. I guess I see this as that “boundary”. There is a line which I cannot go beyond. Beyond that line is hurt, destruction, addiction, abuse, etc. But, the moment someone chooses to come back inside the fence, I am there. Waiting. With a robe, some food, and a warm hug. In real life, this looks like encouraging good choices, calling out warnings, and sometimes being there to console the consequence of a hard lesson. For me it has been helpful to know that first the father went out beyond the house, for some ways, to the boundary of his property. And that he was there, at the boundary, when the son returned. It helps me to understand that I can “chase” kids a bit, but that I have a line which I will not cross, and that’s ok. Blessings to you, sweet woman. I know the work is hard, but man oh man, they sure need it. Thanks for doing what you do.

  • “And what does the Lord require of you?
    To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8

  • Skigranny1

    This was excellent. I often wonder why we as Christians can be so unkind and so unforgiving to others. How easy it is to temporarily forget what Christ has done for us. When we put our lives in the light of His grace and mercy, we should be the most compassionate people on earth. And yet it just doesn’t always happen. Our humanness seems to take over, at least temporarily. I am speaking especially to me! Lord, help me love others with the grace & mercy extended to me. Thanks for all of your comments below. I agree totally and feel grateful I’m not alone. Pray we allow the Holy Spirit to keep us in check and allow the light of Christ to shine on all those we interact with today.

  • Keri McCue

    “He didn’t trust mercy, so he didn’t extend mercy, which landed him in prison—exactly where he’d expected to end up all along. When he reached prison, I imagine he felt justified: I knew he’d come after me all along.” – Oh, too often I have this mindset. Or I DO extend mercy and then become bitter when that mercy isn’t recognized and praised. We are so selfish aren’t we? I needed this swift kick in the rear today!

    http://www.littlelightonahill.com

  • Jess Gardiner

    Listen to the beautiful song “Mercy came running” It goes so perfectly with this devotion.

    It’s dawning on me lately what it really means to be united to Christ and One with Him. Not only does He take our sin and failure, but we take on His life: here and now. His life was a constant demonstration of mercy. No wonder it is a very serious matter when His own show such a lack of mercy and forgiveness to others- how I mourn my sin! We are One with Christ, therefore we are as Christ to those around us! Praying today that I show mercy to my students today and in a little way extend the hand of Christ to them.

  • The heart of the matter is living in a continual state of thankfulness. When we remember God’s mercy toward us and all he has given, it’s easier to be generous and merciful with others.

  • I feel the Holy Spirit on this as I read. And I know it’s Gods heart for us. Even for me. Praying that we all will stand before our loving Father with open hands and receive the mercy and grace he offers us. It’s a gift. But I have to accept it.

  • James 2:15-20 is really speaking to me. I’ve been reassessing my charitable giving. I currently only give to IJM, but now I want to also give to the International Rescue Committee. They work with refugees, people who are poor and have seen terrible things and suffered a lot. Thanks for sharing this verse, it’s giving me a lot to pray and think about

  • Thankful that it is finished!! “Jesus loves me—and you—fully, deeply, permanently. It is final and it is finished” Praise God!

    http://www.in-due-time.com

  • I was listening to my worship songs in line for a bus to my job today. I’ve chosen to honor my family needs by engaging in a one way 3 hour commute to work (long story). It means I must be armed for the day–drinks, snacks, etc. Today was particularly cold so I had a small blanket. I was freezing but a young homeless guy looked colder; he was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. The Holy Spirit asked me to cloth his child. After a long struggle with the Holy Spirit, I approached him and asked if he was cold and needed a blanket. Needless to say, he did. I gave it to him, ready to brace a long and cold bus ride. God changed the regular driver and there was heat on the bus. The Holy Spirit whispered, I always provide if you trust me and are mercificul. So thankful I listened this time! Then I began my devotion only to find God teaching me and showing me to be merciful. He taught me that even though this young man was initially rude and angry, that beyond emotional armor, we all have pressing needs and he moves all of us to act on his behalf–obedience is key. I’m over hear learning y’all!

    • Alexis

      Awesome story, thank you so much for sharing this!

    • Regine

      Thank you for sharing that story! I love how God teaches us how his kingdom works :-). Hope I learn to listen to his voice more!

    • Hannah

      Thank you for sharing this. It brought tears to my eyes. I know the feeling of not wanting to do something God has asked me to do, and yet doing it anyway out of obedience. It is amazing when God confirms to you that you did exactly what he had planned for you. An indescribable peace.

  • Such a timely word from the Lord today for my dealing with my daughter. Unique circumstances provide us with good days and bad days. And when the good days string together a bit longer, I forget that we’re still in the middle of our trial and that MERCY is what I need to extend instead of frustration because my plans will have to be changed. Thank you, Claire, and our Lord for this perfectly timed message. To Him Be the Glory!

  • I love this. I remember growing up as a Muslim and always being told when something bad was to happen to me that it was due to God punishing me for not following his word. That never sat right with me In my heart. It did not make sense. Why would God punish me? It would keep me at night thinking of all the things I have done in my day. I would lay in bed wondering how I would be punished the next day due to small things. I remember the first time my best friend who is a Christian told me- God does not punish. It was the most reliving feeling. I knew that moment was one I was longing for. It makes more sense. My Lord and savior is not going to punish me and this verse confirms it. <3 Love this.

  • Kerri Darby

    So grateful for God’s Word this morning…He’s the perfect example of mercy! So complete in His grace and justice toward us!

  • Truly a most compassionate and inspired meditation! Warms my heart on a most difficult morning…

  • Leah❤️

    I need to read this everyday

  • Oh people. This slapped me in my face today. Not because I’m not a mercy receiver, but because I’m not a mercy giver. It’s the holiday season, things have already begun to move faster and the calendar is full. I’m a planner, a non flexible, major Type A planner. My husband informs me last night that my mother in law and a cousin will be joining us for Thanksgiving, both of which have fallen on some pretty hard times. These hard times are a direct result of extremely poor choices, but hard times non the less. What do I do? I pitch a temper tantrum that would make my 4 year old look like a saint. So as you can imagine I’m not enjoying this mirror image of myself this morning. Pray for me friends. I need to extend all the mercy that has been extended to me. How dare I think I have any other option? Thanking the Lord this morning for his love, mercy and correction. Praying a wonderful Thanksgiving for all of you. May mercy never be far from our lips!

  • “He didn’t trust mercy, so he didn’t extend mercy”… This is a powerful statement. One that resonates with me. It makes me think to two children; one six-year-old who in a fun and spontaneous moment, threw a baseball full speed at a friend who happened to be riding a bike. She didn’t intend to hit him, but she did, square in the forehead, knocking him off his bike and landing him on the hard pavement, head first. Devastated by her actions, she ran. She ran home and hid, offended by her own actions but afraid to face consequences. In walked mercy. Her father sought her out, sat with her calmly and spoke to her. She learned what living mercy looked like in that moment and it stuck with her as a backdrop for life, growing her to love mercy and love sharing mercy with others. The second child I think of was a young boy, one who loved life and made the occassional error in judgement as all young kids do, but this boy didn’t see the loving guidance of mercy, instead he received brutal punishment leaving him unaware of what mercy even was. As one grew, she still made her fair share of mistakes but knowing what mercy was and how it felt would eventually bring her close to Christ and prepare her for a life with Him. The other, grew into a young man who made mistakes and because he didn’t know what mercy was rarely apologized or corrected and instead, he’d mask his guilt or shame with anger and arrogance, not allowing folks to see his hurt or even knowing how to put a name to it and ongoingly becoming the villian in his own story. Eventually these two would meet and while there were blissful moments, there were horrible ones too. The girl would begin to feel less and less because of the lack of mercy in her new life and the boy would become more and more enraged because of the guilt that overtook him. It was a horrible combination and because the boy didn’t know what mercy was, no amount of it the girl showed him would lessen the damage done over the years of his life. It wasn’t until Christ Himself walked in, years down the road, and fought the boy, removing the pain and the bitterness and the shame and showing him personally what real mercy was, that life changed. And oh, how it changed. Now that boy weeps for what Christ did for him, for what Christ showed him and he leads with a mercy and grace. And these two get to live out their lives in unison, grateful for the mercy and love of Christ.

    Mercy is miraculous, it is unbounding, overwhelming and life giving. It lovingly gave back everything that sweet boy lost in life and then some. Jesus *does* love us, every one regardless, fully, deeply and permanently. Prayerful that I extend daily, mercy, that I remember as I do the mercy extended me and that I let it be a guiding factor in my interactions each day!

    • DebbieinAZ

      Beautiful story. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hope

      Thank you ~B! I’m not going to lie. It freaks me out a bit that we share all these pieces of ourselves and we might be brushing elbows in the grocery store. Anyway, I’m the girl that is feeling less and less. How do you retain mercy, grace, and love while waiting. This is the hard part that we the story didn’t get into!

      • ~ B ~

        Hope, I love that idea. Being surrounded with Truthtellers, seekers and readers each morning is such a gift to me … finding you all among me even in the grocery aisles … that sounds blissful! :) And dear girl, “less and less”, this I so understand. Years and years of pressure felt like it was wearing me down more than making me into a diamond …. but God is good and if you can find Him fully in the waiting, if you can focus on receiving mercy, grace and love from Him daily, it will naturally ooze out of you, even when you feel like you have nothing left … He always provides it in abundance, He never runs out, so you never will either. Big hugs, waiting periods are harsh but you are not alone. Prayerful over you today Hope! ~ B

    • Hilary

      Beautiful, B. You definitely have a gift with words and encouragement.

      • ~ B ~

        This community is such a genuinely encouraging one … so thankful for you wonderful ladies!

    • Naomi

      I love your stories, B! Thank you for sharing them with us!

  • The Scripture reading today really drove home the message of mercy, compassion and forgiveness.
    After the results of the election came in, I realized that this is country which lacks compassion, mercy and forgiveness. This applies to both parties. My prayer is that we would begin to follow Christ and display compassion for all. Not just those who look and think like we do.

  • Spot on about social media – definitely stirs emotions in you … just not the right ones. Wonderful devotion today – hits home.

  • churchmouse

    It has been said that grace is receiving that which we don’t deserve. And mercy is not receiving what we do deserve. I once rolled through a stop sign and the policeman pulled me over for not coming to a complete stop. I deserved a ticket. He gave me a warning. That is mercy. You know that I accepted it right there on the spot! But as Claire points out in the devotion today, I don’t always accept mercy well. I remember all my failures and question God’s love and forgiveness. And extending mercy to others? When they’ve offended me and hurt me? That’s hard too. But when I turn my thoughts to the Cross, I see grace and mercy in vivid color. Jesus gave me grace, that which I don’t deserve, and it cost Him His life. And He extended mercy in that I deserved to die for my sins and He took my place. I didn’t receive what I deserved. To dwell on forgiven failures and to refuse to extend mercy to others, cheapens the work of the Cross. It is ingratitude of the highest level. May this Thanksgiving, and the days following, find me appreciating grace and mercy by offering these gifts to others, even as He has gifted me. Amen.

    • Katarina

      I was thinking of these definitions for grace and mercy too! It helps to remember that our wages for sin is death– we deserve death. But Jesus not only took our sins and death, in addition He shares His inheritance, communion with the Trinity, and all that we could ever want and need. His grace is boundless and transforming when you think about what Christ taking everything we deserved and giving us himself and all his goodness and glory in return. May mercy help us see ourselves rightly and may grace remind us we are a new creation saved and loved for eternity.

  • I too share the same thoughts that Claire expressed only for my husband. I should be more focused on building him up and extending mercy instead of pointing out every fault of his.

  • Claire! That was absolutely perfect! You have spoken aloud my deepest thoughts! God is good and mercifu . His version-not ours! Thank you.

  • God has been convicting me of my judgmental attitude toward others. Help me Lord to extend the mercy you have given me to others.

  • Christina Vickers

    God’s mercy counts. It is when we don’t humbly extend the same mercy we’ve been given that it no longer looks like mercy in our lives. Not because we haven’t really received mercy, but because we haven’t represented Him well to the hurting world around us. Rather than learn the valuable lesson mercy has to offer, we take advantage of mercy and continue living in our flesh. Such a blessing to sit down to such an important teaching on a Monday morning! Thank you!

  • Kelly R Smith

    “God is not waiting for me to mess up… Jesus loves me—and you—fully, deeply, permanently. It is final and it is finished.” And since I have been shown such mercy, I need to allow the Holy Spirit to transform my own fault-finding attitude toward myself and others. No condemnation, only celebration!

  • I always think that I am a merciful person. But the hardest person to extend that mercy to is myself. I put my own self in jail until I can repay my own debt. It’s a horrible way to live when that freedom is already extended out with so much mercy wrapped around it. I’m sitting here this morning ready to put myself in jail. Ready to not forgive myself. But I see that hand of mercy reaching out from my Father and I have to take it. I have to take it and grasp it and not let it go. Bc I do not want to stay in this unmerciful place where there is only darkness. I’m reaching out to the light so that I can live freely and abundantly this week.

    • Becky

      Thank you for these words today.

    • Blessed

      I’m right there with you. It’s been a tough few months for me. I’m tired of the dark place I’ve put myself in. I too need to reach for the light. Thank you for this ❤️

  • Claire Bills

    Well it’s been too long away from srt for me but am awaiting advent with anticipation so wanted to get back into the habit.

    Read todays passage and this hit me heart like a bullet “Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times” my toddler is going through the terrible twos and tantruming like never before. I have been getting so frustrated but today I will show mercy and love and grace. I will forgive and hug and trust God will get us through this. Because just as I have been forgiven for what I don’t deserve so too should my 2 year old!

  • I need to be merciful today. I need to show more love today. I need to show more patience. But I am so tired. The enemy is trying to divide my husband and I, my family, our home which used to be a happy place most of the time is now disjointed. My 13 yr old daughter is turning away from her Heavenly Father- caught up in the toxic mix of social media, peer pressure, self esteem and hormones. She just keeps herself to herself in her room and listens to music, we are still close and she talks to me about how she feels- a blessing- but we miss her! My son finds it hard to know how to react to his older sister, my husband just seems to exasperate her and he and I seem to argue. We used to be a family who prayed together, ate together, hung out together and often laughed together and I feel it slipping away. How do I ease us all into the teenage years of growing independence on her behalf while still maintaining the family unity? I pray so much and I see answers but I’m so emotionally tired and feel sick with it all, as if I’m walking on eggshells with them all. Please pray for us- for my daughter to return to her Father’s arms ( he is speaking to her so clearly but she won’t have it) for my husband to feel secure and loved and respected and for us to show him that and for my son to know how to deal with his changing relationship with his sister- they have always been so close. And for me, to show mercy and love and patience to them all and to know that through it all ‘I can do all things through him who strengthens me.’ Thank you.

    • Pam

      Praying for you, dear Katy. I love your heart and the perception you have to see what’s going on and who you are battling with – and it’s not flesh and blood! “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” Ex. 14:14. Praying peace, strength, comfort and wisdom in the days ahead. Much love to you!

    • Kristin

      Praying with you Katy. I wish I had a magic wand to make all of this confusion better. Keep praying! I found a “prayer for the prodigal” on the Moms In Touch website was super helpful in getting through a really tough year with my son. God is up to something in your family; even through the suffering.

    • Kaylin

      I often find it hardest to be merciful in my own family … because those are the people I interact with each and every day, at my worst and when I am most depleted! I love the verse that Pam shared below, that “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent!” I pray that will flood into your heart Katy and into mine as well. That we will be convinced that God is fighting for our families and has extended his mercy to each one of them AND to us. May I be reminded of the servant in all my encounters, but especially those with my family. I know the truth of God’s word can provide the foundation for us to build from each day. I will be praying for you!

    • churchmouse

      Adding my prayers to all the others. Do you have a group of women close to you whom you could ask to pray steadfastly for you and your family? I find it helpful to have a support group ready to pray, hug and encourage me through those tough family days. Praying right now that you have friends willing to do just that.

      • Katy

        Hi church mouse, thank you for your kind words and prayers. I asked my church if I could start a group for praying parents for all the teens in our youth group and they were pleased to do so. However, after emailing around 15 families, only two replied and both saying they couldn’t do it so it is just me and one friend. I know God will still answer those prayers but I was so sad at the lack of response. I’m praying more will join us as the weeks go on. X

    • DebbieinAZ

      Matthew 6:33. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Katy you are doing just that. Keep doing what you are doing. I’m praying with you. God bless you and your sweet family.

    • Robin W.

      My daughter is now 21. I know this struggle.
      Praying for wisdom beyond measure. ❤️

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