This week we are gathering to discuss the fifth Beatitude – Blessed are the merciful for they shall be shown mercy. Please review the study questions set forth by John Stott in his book: The Beatitudes: Developing Spiritual Character. These questions will help guide our discussions on Tuesday.
I have attached copies of the discussion of these verses from both Martin Luther’s Commentary and Kenneth Bailey’s Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes. For both Bailey and Luther, “mercy” has two sides both of which demand that we must show mercy to receive mercy. The first side is taking pleasure in forgiving sinners and those at fault. As Jesus teaches us to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses and we forgive those who trespass against us . . . for if you forgive men their trespass, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespass neither will your father forgive you.” Matt 6:12, 14-15. We also see this in the parable of the Unforgiving Servant, who at first was forgiven by his Master, but when he refused to forgive others, his Master condemned him. Matt 18:23-35.
The other side of showing mercy are works of compassion for those in need. We see these required acts of mercy in the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-28. The separation between the saved and the condemned is not obedience to the written Law but whether we showed compassion on the hungry and the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned. For as we showed mercy to the least of these so also does Christ show mercy to us. And we have the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 25:31-48. The rich man, who as Luther says, “saw poor Lazarus daily dying at his gate full of sores, had not the charity enough to give him a bundle of straw or allow him the crumbs for under his table.”
In beginning his commentary, Luther explores the relationship between the hunger for righteousness and being merciful. Mercy is the fruit of true righteousness but unknown to the self-righteous. Quoting St. Gregory the Great, Luther writes that “true holiness is merciful and compassionate, but false holiness can do nothing but be angry and rage despite their boast that we do it through love and zeal for righteousness.” If we fail to show mercy for the sake of righteousness then we have betrayed the very Gospel itself. If you have time this weekend, read through Luther’s commentary.
Dinner is at 6. Discussion about 6:45. Hope to see you here.
If you really fulfil the royal law, according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well. But if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy; yet mercy triumphs over judgment.James 2:8-13