The fifth beatitude is “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matthew 5:7) We often think of someone who gives mercy as someone who is sentimental or soft-hearted. This is not necessarily true. Mercy can be defined as “compassion in action.” Lamentations 3:22-23 says: “Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” The LORD is not passive in His mercy; His mercy is active in our lives every day. Why does God offer His mercy to us? We are sinners. We deserve judgment. But Ephesians 2:4 tells us: “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us.” God offers mercy to the unbeliever because He wants the unbeliever to be drawn by His love to trust Him and believe in His Son, Jesus, as Savior and Messiah. God offers mercy to the believer that we might be convicted of our sin and drawn to trust and obey Him.
Why does God offer His mercy to us? We are sinners. We deserve judgment. But Ephesians 2:4 tells us: “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us.” God offers mercy to the unbeliever because He wants the unbeliever to be drawn by His love to trust Him and believe in His Son, Jesus, as Savior and Messiah. God offers mercy to the believer that we might be convicted of our sin and drawn to trust and obey Him.
We know God is merciful, but what does this mean to us? Ephesians 5:1-2 says: “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”
The story of the Good Samaritan is the classic story of someone who showed mercy. Luke 10:25-37 gives this story. The law says we are to “love your neighbor as yourself.” The lawyer asked Jesus: “And who is my neighbor?” (verse 29) He was really testing Jesus. The Jews knew that a fellow Jew would be considered a neighbor, but the lawyer was testing Jesus to see if Jesus would include Gentiles as neighbors. Jesus tells about a Samaritan, the very people that the Jews hated. The Samaritans were “half-breeds,” a mixture of Jew and Assyrian, going back to the time of the exile. The priest and the Levite passed by the injured man because they would become unclean to touch an injured man.
The story of the Good Samaritan is actually intended to be a picture of Jesus as our Messiah. The Samaritans were despised and so was Jesus. The Samaritan put wine on the wound. The alcohol in the wine would be for cleansing the wound. The wine is a picture of the blood of Jesus which cleanses us from our sin. The Samaritan gave the man oil for his wounds. This oil may have been like medicine. It was known that medicinal herbs were added to oil to help in the healing of wounds. This oil would be a comfort to the injured man. The oil is a picture of the Holy Spirit who is our Comforter. The Samaritan paid the price for the injured man’s care at the inn. Jesus paid the price for our sin. The Samaritan gave the innkeeper two denari and told the innkeeper he would return. The denari was a day’s wage. So the Samaritan intended to return after two days. Jesus said He would return. Indeed, He will return after two days or two thousand years. That would be VERY SOON. When Jesus asked the lawyer who was the neighbor who helped the injured man, the lawyer could not even bring himself to say the word “Samaritan.” He answered, “He who showed mercy to him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” (verse 37) The point Jesus was making is that all people are to be considered “our neighbor,” not just those people of our race or those people whom we like. As we said, mercy is not just feeling sorry for someone; mercy is compassion in action.
There is a connection between mercy and truth. Psalm 85:10 says: “Mercy and truth have met together;” To show mercy is not to minimize or forget about sin. The truth is that we will sin even after we believe in Jesus. When we sin, judgment is needed, but mercy withholds judgment. God wants us to repent of sin and turn to Him and obey Him. If we refuse to repent of sin and refuse God’s mercy, Hebrews 12:5-11 speaks of God chastening the believer to bring him to repentance.
We might think that we want God to be fair. God is not fair. He is just. At the final judgment, there will be no mercy, only justice. Hebrews 10:28-29 tells us that there will be punishment for those who have refused God’s mercy and refused to believe in His Son, Jesus: “Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing and insulted the Spirit of grace?”
If we are to be imitators of God’s mercy, then we must learn how to show mercy. There will be a judgment for believers. We will not be judged for salvation. Jesus has paid the price for our salvation. But we will be judged for our works. James 2:13 says: “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” For the great mercy that God has shown us, should we not be willing to show mercy to others.
There is a time when we should judge others and there is a time when we should show mercy. Wisdom is knowing the difference. If we judge, when we should show mercy, that is not wise; but if we show mercy, when we should judge, that is not wise. There is a time when God shows mercy to His children and there is a time when He chastens His children. God is and has all Wisdom. We need to ask God for His Wisdom. God’s mercy triumphs over judgment. If we are in doubt, we should let our mercy triumph over judgment.
Notes from Dr. Adrian Rogers Taught by Dr. Susie Stiles