"Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy."
What happens if you don't stand up to a bully? What happens if you don't stand up for yourself when a family member is treating you unfairly? What happens when someone does something to you and you allow it to pass without comment?
We all know the answer to these questions, don't we?
The bully keeps bullying and is empowered to bully again. The family member never learns their lesson and continues to act selfishly and unfairly. And the offending person continues to offend. And you suffer even more for it.
We know intuitively that we must stand up to bullies. We must fight for our rights. Oh, how many times have we heard the line in a movie, "I have rights! I'm an American!" We must fend for ourselves or be forced to live "beneath" everyone else who is fending for themselves.
And yet, Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, to pray for our enemies, and yes...even to love them instead of loving only our neighbors.
Now remember, we are looking at the beatitudes in light of them being statements of fact rather than admonitions of how to be. But in other places like the ones sighted above and many, many more all the way through the Bible, we are instructed to be merciful and to show mercy. In fact, one of the main descriptions of God throughout His word is that He is merciful, and we are called to emulate that quality.
In Josh's condensed and paraphrased dictionary, God's mercy is all about his covenant love with His people that compels Him to put up with a whole bunch of junk simply because He is committed to His people. I've often used a description I heard a long time ago that describes grace and mercy as flip sides of the same coin. Grace is getting something we don't deserve (i.e.- forgiveness) and mercy is not getting something we do deserve (i.e.- not getting an eye for an eye, etc.). They are often used interchangeably. And over and over again, we are taught and instructed that when we receive God's mercy, we are compelled to pass it on.
But the problem, is that we all know what happens if we are not careful about passing out too much mercy...
we will get walked all over!
The bullies will keep bullying.
The offenders will keep offending.
The manipulaters will keep manipulating.
And that is why Jesus sets the record straight at the very beginning of his ministry about what happens inside the kingdom, because it is the exact opposite of how we think it happens in the world. Even though people might get walked on in the world, we can be sure that God's kingdom takes precedence. And inside the kingdom of God, those who lavishly throw around mercy, will have mercy lavishly thrown upon them. That's just the way it is.
So the question for us then becomes do I really want to demand that others get what they deserve when they do me wrong in order to ensure my own well-being? Because in the kingdom of God, we are promised to be shown mercy simply because we are in the kingdom of heaven through the blood of Christ. And once we are in the kingdom of heaven and experiencing that mercy...the only thing in the world...and in all of eternity that makes sense is to pass that mercy on to everyone else we can and forget about the temporary consequences that typically make us cautious in our mercy-giving.