“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). (Ephesians 2:4-5)
We serve a merciful and compassionate God. To serve him, to know him, to believe in him is to experience his mercy, and it is through his mercy that we learn to be merciful to those around us. The knowledge that God loves us and continues to care for us, despite all our sins and shortcomings, makes us want to be kind and caring toward others.
Mercy does not come to us naturally, however, we must learn it by example. We can see this played out in society – a child that has been left to his own devices, unnurtured and undisciplined, does not know how to be kind to others. He does not think to himself, “I’m going to treat these other kids the way I wish someone would treat me.” Unless someone comes along to show him a better way, that child will be selfish and uncaring by default.
But if it’s true that we to need to see mercy before we can show mercy to others, then why would Jesus turn it around and say that it is by being merciful to others that we ourselves are shown mercy? Is he talking about some kind of “karma” here? Or is this just another example of reaping what we sow? No, it is neither of those things; Jesus is simply giving us an introductory lesson into the “grace-based” economy of the Kingdom of God. In God’s economy each of us starts out with Nothing, then God graciously gives us Something, and as we share that Something, we continuously receive more of it back. Jesus touches on this subject often in his sermons and parables (e.g.,the Parable of the Talents, Matthew 25:14-30). As we share mercy, we receive greater mercy.
We do not compel God to be merciful to us by being merciful to others, but somehow, in making the effort to put our own needs aside and focus on the needs of others, we learn more of what mercy is. We discover new opportunities to show mercy to people around us, and even begin to view others differently, seeing past the rough exterior to the fragility within. We SEE God’s mercy – we see it everywhere! We see how God pours out his mercy to us afresh every morning and sustains us with mercy throughout the day. We see it in the small comforts of our home, in the loving gestures of friends and family, even in the wagging tail of a dog in welcome after a long tiresome day. It is through the practice of mercy that we learn to recognize the mercy that God has lavished upon us
The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes. (William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice)