In a recent running of the Boston Marathon, one of the leading runners stopped for an unexpected 13 second bathroom break. This may sound insignificant, but falling behind 13 seconds in a race like Boston can be disastrous. However, in this instance, a fellow competitor kindly slowed down and waited, allowing the runner to catch up. Ultimately, the runner that waited, the one that showed mercy, went on to win the entire race! As we run through this Christian life, will we take the time to show mercy?
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7) Later, he explained more about mercy, “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be Sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” (Luke 6:35-36) It’s not hard to show mercy to those that are good to us, but what about those who are against us? Each day, God shows mercy to those who fight against Him, as Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:45, saying, “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” We’re to practice this same type of mercy, just as God does, to everyone, regardless of what they’ve done.
Many times, this is just too difficult for us, right? We struggle to show mercy to those who may not deserve it. Thankfully, God is merciful to those who don’t deserve it – us! Romans 5:10 says, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son…” Jesus is clearly asking us to be merciful in this same way, even toward our enemies. He’s asking us to go easy on the irritable customer, show love to the relative who seems to have no love for us, and help out someone that’s competing against us. This is understandably difficult, and we can only do this by the power of the Holy Spirit who reminds us that Jesus has seen our sin and mercifully said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:11) We can give mercy because we’ve received mercy.
When Jesus puts forth a principle like, “Blessed are the merciful,” we can take his word for it. Ask the marathon runner who showed mercy during Boston and was blessed with a victory! Yet, in this dog-eat-dog world, many feel if they’re merciful, they’ll be taken advantage of, but the writer of Hebrews reminds us, “For God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you demonstrated for his name by serving the saints – and by continuing to serve them.” (6:10) When we show mercy, we’re not doing it for the praise and respect of men and women which may never come. We do it to please God.