Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Matthew 5:7
Merciful – Jesus says, “Happy the merciful”. If we think about this for more than one spiritualized moment, we will see that this thought is already backwards. The first thing we need to notice is that Jesus is not addressing the ones who need mercy. He is addressing the ones who gives mercy. He is talking to the ones who are on the right side of justice. The law tells them that they rightfully deserve reward. The Law is in their favor.
We usually read this Beatitude as though it is speaking to the transgressors, the ones who deserve to be punished. That mistake makes us think that the opening announcement of this Beatitude proclaims mercy to the ones who are guilty under the Law. But look again! Jesus is addressing those who are at this moment giving mercy. These are not the guilty ones. The guilty have no right to give mercy. The people that Jesus has in mind are the ones who have been the victims of crimes. They are the ones who deserve justice. The law is in their favor. I can only give mercy if I am worthy of justice. I must be the one offended if I am going to grant release from punishment for someone else.
This makes the Beatitude’s announcement much more startling. Why should the merciful be happy? They are precisely the ones who are not getting their rights. People who show mercy have put aside their right to justice. Yes, it’s true that the ones who receive mercy should be grateful (they aren’t always though, are they?). But the very fact that I give mercy means that what should rightfully happen to me is not going to happen. I deserve justice. But I let it go.
Now we begin to see how much we are really Greek in our thinking. Imagine this picture. We attend a trial. The plaintiff (victim) has been severely injured, slandered and defrauded. The case is open and shut. Damages are determined and punishment allocated. But then the victim stands and says, “Your Honor, I know that this man is guilty. The court has confirmed his guilt. But I would like all the damages waived and the punishment removed. I want to let it all go. In fact, I want to take all the consequences on myself.” How would we react?
“You can’t be serious. You just won. It’s rightfully yours.” That’s the lawyer talking.
“How can you do this? After all we’ve suffered, how can you just let him go?” That’s the spouse.
“You must be out of your mind. All that money and you’d be set for life. You’re crazy.” That’s the friend.
“What a loser! This guy is so stupid he doesn’t deserve to win.” That’s the news reporter.
It’s all the same in Greek, isn’t it? Justice must be served. Consequences are demanded. You won, now you collect.
“Happy those demonstrating mercy”. Someone in funny clothes in the back of the room is clapping.
When mercy becomes personal, it is not about sympathetic affiliation. It is not about emotional compassion and identification. It is about giving up my right to justice. That’s not commonsense at all, but it’s perfectly in line with God.
Topical Index: Mercy