HAPPY: Are The Merciful
The process continues. In the Beatitudes Jesus is describing the orderly progression of a believer's transformation into His likeness and image. One step leading to the other.
He declares that the person who Embraces His Process for their lives, and the change that it brings, is a happy person. Change is not easy, and it is not up to the believer to achieve by his own power, it is the work of the Holy Spirit and achieved by His power. The Believer's part is to recognize and submit to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Here are the steps we've examined to this point.
The Poor in Spirit: This is when a person Acknowledges and Embraces their brokenness, their sinfulness, their lack, their need for salvation, and their inability to save themselves. Usually, this is the point at which a person believes and asks Jesus to be their Savior and Lord. It's the first step to salvation. It's the first step of submission to the Holy Spirit.
Those Who Mourn: Jesus is referring to Jewish mourning customs which forced the one who suffered the loss to abandon themselves to the memory of the one who was lost, and to mourn deeply. The first seven days (Shiva) loved ones and friends weren't even allowed to speak comforting words that would interrupt their progress into deep mourning. If a parent was lost, the surviving children were to pray the Kaddish each year on the anniversary of the parent's death. They were never to forget. We are never to forget either. Jesus says that those who never forget what they learned in Step One are Happy, or on the road to achieving true happiness.
The Meek: Living in the reality of our true state, apart from God, the natural and necessary result leads to spiritual meekness, a humility and gentleness, where we adopt the posture of one waiting on God for all that we need. Nothing else will do. We desire only that which comes from His hand for us, knowing that He Will Provide.
Those Who Hunger and Thirst After Righteousness: Like fasting, through steps one and two, we have emptied, and continue to empty ourselves of all that the flesh desires. Our appetites and desires have been redirected creating a capacity to desire what is right in God's eyes, not our own. This is how Jesus lived his life, doing only those things He sees His Father doing, not the visions from His own mind.
Now we move on to the next Beatitude, the next step in the process of transformation.
Matthew 5:7 KJV - "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy."
Next, Jesus declares that it is the "Merciful" person who is happy.
Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words defines the word "merciful" like this; "not simply possessed of pity but Actively Compassionate, is used of Christ as a High Priest."
Christ Like Compassion
Most of us are moved in our emotions by the suffering, loss, and pain of others. Being moved to action, however, can be a different story.
Here is an excerpt from an article in "Psychology Today" called "3 Reasons Why People Refuse to Help Others in Need", by Bobby Hoffman PhD (October 3, 2017). He begins the article with a question.
"How many times have you avoided eye contact and walked away from a homeless person? How much “junk” mail requesting financial contributions from charities have you tossed in the trash without a second thought? How often have you been too “busy” to volunteer your time at a local church, school, or soup kitchen? If you are like many Americans, the answer is frequently."
He goes on to say;
"Giving and helping estimates vary dramatically, but if you are like most Americans, you probably help others only by donating money. The majority of us donate to either religious or educational causes...The percentage of people who volunteer time is considerably less..."
Dr. Hoffman says that the Department of Labor statistics indicate that only about 3.5 to 9.5 percent of people older than 15 years get personally involved by giving of their time.
There are probably as many reasons why we don't get personally involved as there are people. But we all know that we should, and deep down probably wish we more inclined to. Still, for the most part, we do not.
We all know those few people who, like superheroes, give and give continuously, both money and time. Seeing them, and the ease with which they serve and give, only adds to our guilt for how little we do.
Like so many other results of sin, and the sinful nature we all bear, giving and serving is something that does not usually come easily or naturally. But God so loved the world that He gave. Giving is the nature of God and as such is completely contrary to our own sinful natures.
Jesus death and resurrection makes it possible, with the Holy Spirit's leading, to become more giving, more like Christ.
The difference between our compassion and God's is that His compassion compels Him to action. This is why Jesus came, because God so loved.
The work of the Holy Spirit in our lives leads us through a work of transformation, more and more, into the image of Jesus, whose kind of compassion did not allow Him to sit back and not get involved.
He did not give a measured response, He laid it all on the line, holding nothing back, willing to give His life in order to save ours. That is Active Compassion. That is what it means to be merciful. It may be the single most important way to finding true, meaningful, and enduring happiness.
I believe that Active Compassion is the most powerful and compelling of all the attributes of God. Love gives sacrificially. It is what true love is.
Our Most Powerful Witness
John 13:35 NLT - "Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples."
In John's first epistle he says that "God is love." The most prominent desire, in the heart of people, is for love. We hear it in our songs, we see it literature and movies. One of the most famous songs in my lifetime is "All You Need Is Love", by the Beatles. Another song that resonated widely through the culture, and still does more than fifty years later, is "What The World Needs Now", by Burt Bacharach. It's lyrics say, "What the world needs now, is love sweet love..."
When the world says "We want Love", they are really expressing the deepest need and desire of our hearts, which is, "We want God."
A Hungry Generation
I have heard that this generation, in which we are living, is hungry for truth, even if they don't like it when they hear it. They are lost and afraid. They are looking for love, true love, God's kind of love that reaches out and doesn't remain uninvolved.
Thank God that Jesus compassion moved Him to action, otherwise we would still be lost, dead in our sin and trespasses, doomed to eternal destruction.
It's great that Jesus made the move when He did, but now He is depending upon we who belong to Him to be His hands extended to the hungry in our world.
Jesus In Us
The world is looking for Jesus, even if they don't realize it. When Jesus ascended to the Father, after his Death, Burial, and Resurrection, he had a plan that would keep Him visible to the world.
1 Corinthians 12:27 NLT - "All of you together are Christ's body, and each of you is a part of it."
Paul teaches us, in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, that WE are the Body of Christ. We have bodies, but that body doesn't make us who we are. Who we are is that invisible part of us, our spirit and soul, our conscientiousness. The Bible calls it the heart.
In the Proverbs, chapter twenty-three, we learn that God wants our hearts, and that He wants us to observe His ways to learn them and do them.
Proverbs 23:26 NLT - "O my son, give me your heart. May your eyes take delight in following my ways."
God, in His dialogue with Samuel, says that man looks an the outer man, but God looks on the the inner man, the heart.
The purpose of this "Process" we are studying is to transform the inner man within us to look more and more like Christ. Jesus has a plan to be seen by the world, and that is through us. We don't need His body, for Him to be seen by the world, but we do need His heart. God is working to transform our hearts.
In Proverbs 23:7 we learn that as a man thinks in his heart so will he be. That is to say that what people will ultimately see is what is in our hearts. This is why God is working to transform our hearts to look like Christ's. When our heart is like Christ's on the inside, Christ will be seen through us on the outside.
To be Merciful is to have the kind of Compassion that moves us to action. This is the kind of compassion that Jesus has. Christ's compassion flows from His heart. God is transforming our hearts to be like His so that we do not sit idly by while the lost go into eternity having not heard of Jesus and His salvation.
Isaiah 52:7 NKJV - "How beautiful upon the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who proclaims peace, Who brings glad tidings of good [things], Who proclaims salvation, Who says to Zion, "Your God reigns!""
Our failures and weakness are not enough to hide the image of Christ in us when we commit sharing the hope of salvation through Christ to the world around us. When we do this His love and image shine brightly through us, outshining our own lack and imperfections to His glory.