“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.- Matthew 5:7
We live in a world of imbalance. Material wealth is distributed unevenly, but people have non-material qualities in differing degrees, too. Some are more intelligent or have more or less artistic skill or scientific aptitude or business acumen. Yet some skills or abilities can be increased or developed beyond natural aptitude. This is true, too, for our emotions, our capacity to feel, especially to feel for others.
But what makes people merciful? What makes us care about others in need? Some people may be born with more merciful hearts, and some may have been taught well. But mercy is most powerful when it comes from the heart, and we are most inclined to feel mercy for others when we know that we ourselves depend on mercy each day.
As we consider the progression of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 we see that the poor in spirit inherit the kingdom of heaven because, only if we admit our sin and depravity can we receive God’s offer of salvation. When a grasp of the gravity of our sin causes us to mourn, we are comforted by the assurance of forgiveness in Christ. This makes us meek, for we can no longer enforce our will over someone else once we ourselves are humbled at the realization our standing before God. And aware of what we do not have and what we are not, we hunger and thirst for what we would be; we long to be like God and so crave His righteousness.
But these changes to our hearts brought about by God’s gracious gift of salvation do not remain in our hearts alone. Neither do they bear only on our relationship with the God who saves us. Our relationships with our fellow human beings are also profoundly affected by the fact that we have become Kingdom citizens. We begin to care about their wellbeing. It grieves us to see others suffer. When we can we try to alleviate their pain; when we cannot we still care. We pray for God to provide relief and our hearts are pained as long as suffering persists.
Mercy is a symptom as much as a condition we pursue. It is evidence of a realization of mercy we have received. It is a positive side of meekness. Where meekness does not let us elevate ourselves over others, mercy sees their suffering and pursues their actual wellbeing.
We can live in little comfort bubbles and be content with the world, but when we realize our own poverty of spirit we can no longer justify or enjoy selfish comfort or exclusive affluence. Our hearts are moved to care for others. We do not then earn God’s mercy by repenting, but mercy is an evidence of repentance and our repentance from our sin and selfishness brings God’s mercy to bear on us.