Relationship Building - Mercy and Peace
October 22, 2017
This is the third in our series of messages on the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes are the opening statements of Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount which he taught from a hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee. In His opening statements to this sermon, Jesus lists eight dispositions, attitudes, or temperaments of kingdom living.
These dispositions of kingdom living are all said to be “blessed” which is the Greek word μακάριος, meaning “happy.” Jesus is telling the crowd that day, and of course you and me, that those who are a part of the kingdom and begin to see these dispositions develop in their lives . . . they are happy people and not just happy, but the source of their happiness is found in their relationship with God. It is divine joy, supreme bliss, transcendent happiness. Thus, that is why we use the word “Beatitudes” to describe these dispositions that Christ expounds.
So, these are eight dispositions, characteristics, or temperaments that depict a person who is a born-again believer, a kingdom citizen. Now, not that these are being perfectly displayed in our lives, but that they are a growing part of our lives. If you are saved today, Jesus is talking about you. These dispositions should be a growing part of our lives. We have looked at the first four Beatitudes already and have learned much about how these should be a part of who we are. First was the:
~ Poor in Spirit – Emptied of Self (v. 3)
This means that we are emptied of self and we are begging God to fill us. When it comes to our human spirit, we need to understand that we are nothing and we need God. It is removing pride and seeing ourselves as destitute without Christ. When we came to Christ in salvation we understood our spiritual situation and realized that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves from sin without Jesus Christ. Then this disposition continues to grow in our lives . . . living daily in dependence on God, being poor in spirit and walking with Him will bring supreme joy and happiness.
~ Mourning – Repentant (v. 4)
This is a grief, sadness, or sorrow over sin in our lives. It is the picture of repentance. A born-again believer should have great sorrow over sin in their lives and desire to turn away from it and turn toward God in repentance seeking the help they need to resist the temptation to sin. There is transcendent happiness to be had for those who stand in the forgiveness of our loving God as we are repentant over sin.
~ Meek – Power Under Control (v. 5)
Meekness is not weakness, rather we found that meekness is having great power under control. Though we often think of anger as being an example of power out of control and it can be, but the opposite is not meekness either. There is a balance of being angry over sin and God’s holiness being offended, yet keeping it under control so that it doesn’t leave a wake of destruction in people’s lives. There is supreme bliss for the kingdom citizen when meekness is a developing disposition in their lives. Again, meekness is power under control.
~ Hunger and Thirst – Desire and Pursuit (v. 6)
Much like physical hunger and thirst, those who are saved should have spiritual hunger and thirst. Both for our physical bodies and our spiritual lives, hunger and thirst are a sign of health. If there is no hunger and thirst for the things of God, there is something wrong spiritually in your life. If you are not feeding your heart and mind with the things of God, but rather you are attempting to find satisfaction in the junk food of worldly values, then your relationship with God will not be what it ought to be. Divine joy is available for the person who feeds on God’s Word and nourishes their spirit with the nutrients of God’s wisdom.
We want to look at two more Beatitudes today. But before we continue to the fifth Beatitude, I would like to read Matthew 5:3-16 again so we are reminded again of the big picture here.
Matthew 5:3-16 ESV
3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
13 "You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.
14 "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.
16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
~ Merciful – Withholding what is Deserved (v. 7)
7 "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Mercy is a very powerful term for the believer because of our salvation. Mercy means to have compassion or pity on someone and not give them the punishment they deserve to get. Simply put, mercy is not getting something bad you deserve to get. Let me compare three terms here that I think should clarify the idea of mercy.
- Justice – getting what a person deserves. When something is done wrong, there is penalty or punishment because of it. That is justice. Justice implies that the innocent person is never condemned and the guilty always pay for their wrong doing.
- Mercy – not getting something bad that a person deserves to get. When someone is guilty of wrong doing that is deserving of punishment or penalty, but if compassion is extended by the one who was wronged and they withhold the punishment . . . that is mercy.
- Grace – is getting something good, like a gift, that a person does not deserve to get. Kind of the opposite side of the coin of mercy, grace is giving someone something good that they don’t deserve to get.
All three terms describe how we process the attitudes and actions toward another person. The act of mercy is always sourced in compassion for the other person. In fact, all three terms are involved when we consider our sin against God and the salvation He extends to us.
- God’s justice condemns the guilty and we are guilty of sin before a holy God. Before Christ’s provision of salvation, John 3:17, tells us that we were condemned already because of sin. Justice puts us as sinners under His condemnation. Let me tell you, we do not want justice as we stand before God!
- In mercy, Jesus Christ took our condemnation upon Himself as if He were guilty and so He paid the penalty for sin. The bad that we justly deserve . . . He took for us. Why? Because of His compassion for us. That is mercy, not getting the bad I deserve . . . He took it for me.
- In grace, we are given the opportunity to be declared innocent, something none of us deserve. He is extending the gift of salvation by faith, something good that none of us deserve. Thus, we are saved by grace through our faith. That is grace.
So why did I go through all of that about God’s justice, grace, and mercy? This Beatitude is about you and I being merciful toward others and we need to understand what mercy is and that our mercy is always rooted in God’s mercy toward us.
Mercy and forgiveness go hand in hand for Christ followers. Forgiveness is always an extension of mercy out of a heart of compassion for another. Turn with me to Matthew 18 for a moment. Here Peter asks Jesus the question about how many times he should forgive someone who sins against him. Peter thought that maybe seven times was a lot, but Jesus said you should forgive 70 times 7 . . . indicating a value that is never ending. Then Jesus tells Peter a story, lets pick it up in verse 23:
23 "Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.
(1 talent is 15 year’s wage = 150,000 year’s wage – an impossible amount to pay back)
25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.
(Clearly this is justice, getting what the servant deserved)
26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' 27 And out of pity (compassion) for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.
(This is mercy, not getting what he deserved - the servant is forgiven of the impossible debt)
28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, (a denarius is a day’s wage = 100 day’s wage) and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, 'Pay what you owe.' 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you.' 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.
(after receiving mercy from his impossible debt, this servant demands justice from someone who owes almost nothing compared to his debt).
31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?'
34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.
This story of the King who forgave the debt is a powerful illustration for us in being merciful. Like this servant who owed a super-large debt to the King, as human beings we are in sin debt, up past our ears. We are condemned to pay the penalty. But God extends mercy, gives us what we don’t deserve and offers salvation, we now stand debt free before God. The debt that is impossible for us to pay has been forgiven.
But then like that servant, we go out and say to others who have offended us, hurt us, persecuted, or maligned us and say, I will not forgive you these insignificant things even though we have been forgiven of so much. I will not extend mercy and you will pay for what you have done to me. Like the king in the story, God becomes angry with us and withholds mercy.
Compared to our offenses against God, offenses by others against us are miniscule. It is not possible for someone to commit an offense against us greater than any offense we have committed against God.
We need to see those who offend us as instruments of God in our lives to move us closer to God and be more like Him. Remember, mercy and forgiveness go hand in hand. Do we somehow think we are better than God that we don’t have to forgive others that offend us? We need to show mercy. Why? Because we will receive mercy.
Imagine for a moment coming to God in prayer with a sin you have committed seeking restoration with Him. You know without a doubt that you have been granted salvation, God’s mercy and forgiveness have been extended and you know you are saved. So, you go to Him in prayer in sorrow over the sin you have committed. You expect His continual mercy and forgiveness to cover that sin so that you can be restored to a right relationship with Him.
But then you remember that someone in your life has offended you, but you did not choose mercy and forgiveness, but rather you chose resentment and ill will toward them. Let me ask you, can you truly experience God’s mercy in the way He intended it if you refuse mercy toward others? Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy! God centered joy is found with those who are merciful, forgiving, and compassionate toward those who hurt us.
I am going to skip the pure in heart in verse eight and come back to it next week because I want to spend more time on it and so we will cover it alone. Verse 9 talks about the
Peacemakers – Quiet Rest in the midst of Conflict (v. 9)
9 "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
What does it mean that Kingdom citizens are peacemakers? When we think of someone who we would call a peacemaker, generally, we think of a person who gets in the middle of a conflict between two conflicting parties and arbitrates a compromise or settlement of the issues between the adversarial parties. Though this is a part of what Jesus is teaching, it goes so much deeper than that. The Greek word used here is a major word used in the New Testament concerning peace.
The root word is εἰρήνη and simply means “peace” which is the same as the word “shalom” of the Old Testament. Sometimes εἰρήνη is used in the sense of wellbeing, good fortune, prosperity, or health. But it is also used extensively in the since of the lack of hostility. So, what did Jesus have in mind when He told us that one of the growing dispositions of Kingdom citizens is that they are peace makers?
Turn to Ephesians 2. Like that of being merciful, peacemaking is sourced in our relationship with God. It all begins with peace with God. Follow along as I read from Ephesians 2 as it describes how we came to salvation, oneness with Him, and peace with God.
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility
15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,
16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.
Jesus Christ has made peace with God by His blood when He died on the cross. We cannot understand peace properly until we understand that as sinners we are in a hostile relationship with God and that we can come to the Father, by the blood of Jesus Christ, in peace.
It is only then that we can have a genuine peace within our hearts, the peace that Romans 15:13 talks about. When we have peace with God we can also pursue peace among the brotherhood and with other people in the world. What I am trying to say is that peace finds its root in our relationship with God. Once we have peace with God, peace becomes a part of every area of our lives. But the interesting thing we need to understand is that having peace is not necessarily the absence of conflict.
One of the clearest examples of this is Steven when he was being stoned to death for his faith. He had peace with God and even though he was being stoned, he asked that God forgive them of these actions against him.
59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Just because we are at peace with God and we attempt to make peace with others, the real peace comes in knowing that God is in charge. Do we really get that? You see, peace is never about compromising our faith in order to experience peace in this world, though we should seek peace in other ways with people around us, but it is always about being at peace with God and what He is doing.
What we are saying here is simply this; peacemakers are ambassadors of God’s peace, a witness and testimony of what real peace looks like, a reconciler for peace with God, or you could say we are mediators of peace attempting to draw others to God’s peace. Yes, we should be peacemakers as much as possible in conflicts between people, but our focus is on peace with God.
The opposite of a peacemaker is one who causes division, agitates, deceives, spreads gossip, betrays trust, or divides people. But Jesus says:
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
One of the evidences of salvation is your peace with God and that you are a peacemaker in drawing others into peace with God. Truly this person is a son or daughter of God.
I know we have covered a lot here, but there is so much more we can say about being merciful and being peacemakers. Both dispositions have to do with understanding our relationship with God and in turn showing that disposition of mercy and peace to the world around us. Those we are in contact with should be amazed at the peace we have even in the midst of conflict. The world should be blown away by the mercy we show to those who deserve no mercy.
These are the very dispositions and characters of our loving heavenly Father. As we are recipients of His mercy and His peace, we should develop the disposition of mercy, forgiveness, and peace in our lives. In essence, we are to put God on display to the world because these dispositions are continually growing in our lives.
Poor in spirit
Hungry and thirsty