“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7).
No one earns God’s mercy by first being merciful to others. God always goes first. Likewise, no one earns God’s forgiveness by first forgiving the sins of others. God always goes first. He forgives our sins, and his forgiveness gives the power to forgive those who sin against us.
God’s mercy is a gift. He is merciful to us, even though we do not deserve it. In fact, the word “mercy” requires it to be an undeserved gift. Being kind and generous to people who deserve such things is not mercy; it is justice.
We do not deserve God’s kindness, generosity, and mercy. Even the best of us on our best days falls far short from God’s plan for our lives. We are meant to love God with our whole hearts. We are meant to love everyone around us as much as we love ourselves. When we follow the path of selfishness, greed, envy, hatred, and cruelty, we are failures. We deserve to be punished by God. We deserve to be cast far away from him, condemned to an eternal existence without his love and his help.
God is merciful to us. Although we do not deserve to be forgiven, he forgives us. Although we do not deserve to be rescued, he rescues us. Jesus came to live a perfect life for us, crediting each of us with his goodness and sharing with us the rewards he earned. Jesus took away our guilt, paying our debt in full on the cross. God is too holy to ignore our sins, but in love he transfers them to Jesus, who pays the penalty we never could have paid. On the cross, Jesus gives himself for us. He also fought and won a battle on our behalf—a battle against sin, against evil, and against death. He won the victory single-handedly on the cross; the war against all evil—including the guilt of our sins—was finished that Friday outside Jerusalem (John 19:30). Jesus announced his victory Sunday morning of the same weekend by rising from the dead.
Mercy transfers our guilt to Jesus. Mercy transfers his rewards to us. Mercy makes us able to share His victory, in spite of the fact that he won that victory alone. Mercy renews forgiveness and Christ’s victory in our lives every day, even though we continue to sin every day.
God’s mercy changes us. Because he loves us, we can love others. Because he forgives all our sins, we can forgive those who sin against us. Because he has mercy on us, we can be merciful. If it were necessary for us to love first, to forgive first, to show mercy first before God can bless us, his blessing would never come to us. Because God has already blessed us, we now have the power to be like him. Those who are truly merciful, Jesus says, are the ones who have already been changed by the mercy with which God has blessed them. J.