7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Jesus is announcing the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God. What is it like
to live where God is King? What kind of king is He? He is a king who gives
comfort, sets things right, freely gives His subjects the earth as an inheritance,
and gives them His kingdom rather than merely imposing it on them. Jesus is
telling His listeners, and us, what God is up to in our lives and it is incredibly
good news. Our fallen world tells us that to be blessed is to be strong, rich,
self-sufficient, and tearless. In fact, in our world, to be blessed is to not
need to be blessed by anyone else because you are completely able to bless
yourself, or at least to believe that you are where you are all because of
your own ability to bless yourself. It seems to me that our culture assumes
that to achieve perfection is to reach a state where we do not need anyone
else. In the Kingdom of God, however, the blessed person is the one who is
able to receive blessings and glory from another rather than giving it to him/herself.
The people Jesus describes are blessed because they are in a position to be
filled by God's comfort, righteousness, and presence. In fact, Jesus
Himself is the Truly Blessed One and is always receiving His Father's
love, joy, and peaceful presence.
Jesus announces, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." What
does it mean to be merciful? Like being meek, being merciful is not usually
admired by the world around us. Someone who is merciful is likely to be accused
of being a doormat, of not facing up to reality, or of being easily taken advantage
of. To be merciful is to not give up on another person, or to give up on God.
Even when you are angry at the other person and you can't believe they
did it again, you can't quite give up hope that they can change and that
the relationship can get better. When you are merciful, you are willing to
give another a second chance. Often when someone has made a mistake, has hurt
us, we are tempted to think of that person only in terms of what they did.
To be merciful is to hope that there is more to the person than their mistake
or sin—that their mistake does not tell us all of who they are.
The reason we want to look beyond the mistake is because we want others to
look beyond our own sin. We hope that we are not able to be reduced to our
flaws or brokenness. We hope that our sin will not get to be the last word
on who we are and where we are going. When we ourselves long for mercy, for
another chance, we realize that we are not that different from the person who
stands before us. We are alike--broken, hurting, and in need of hope that this
is not the end.
Where does such hope come from? It is obviously not based on the person themselves.
The person who is merciful is counting on something or Someone bigger than
the other or themselves to bring about a new beginning. Being merciful is not
just pretending something didn't happen, or allowing the person to go
on sinning against you just as before. There is a purpose to being merciful
that goes well beyond just letting someone off the hook. Mercy is providing
room for the person not to be trapped by the past or their sinful nature, but
to be able now to move forward, to grow and mature, to become more of the person
they were created to be. Mercy is not saying, "yes" to the sin,
but to the sinner. So it isn't giving in or giving up but, rather hoping
for transformation. Being merciful does not mean being a doormat. This means
that to be merciful one is counting on God to provide the possibility of real
change. My mercy counts on God's faithful Spirit to be at work to bring
about repentance and new life in the one towards whom I am being merciful.
This is what I am hoping for in my own life. I don't want merely to be
told that I am forgiven-- I want to have new life. I want to hope that God
is able to work in me in such a way that more and more I see that my sin truly
is not who I am. I long to be made new, to hope that someday I am not going
to continue to be bogged down by envy, manipulation, anxiety, greed, etc.
Jesus announces wonderful news here. For those who are listening and wondering
why they should go on hoping for something better in those others and in themselves,
Jesus is saying that this desire is not a weakness or an escape from facing
the real hopelessness of the situation. Rather this desire to be merciful,
to not give up on others is a sign of being blessed by God, of responding to
His merciful Spirit at work in you. And the reason you are blessed is because
you will receive mercy. God has not given up on you. He is able and willing
to give you true life and identity and not to leave you in your brokenness.
As with the previous beatitudes we can see that this applies first of all
to Jesus Himself. Is Jesus merciful? How could we doubt it? It is His mercy
that brought Him here to take on our sinful humanity and heal it from the inside
out. Jesus knows that our present state does not have to be the last word on
who we are. When God raised Jesus from the dead, death no longer had the last
word. We can look at nothing, as completely hopeless, if God is a God who brings
life out of death.
I found looking at this beatitude very comforting and challenging. In those
times when we are dealing with someone who is either indifferent to our help
or hostile to it, we may find ourselves wondering if we are fools to keep on
trying, or hoping for better. We are tempted to think that this indifference
or hostility is all that this person is. I have found in my own life that God
can and does enable me to allow Him to mediate the relationship in such a way
that I do not take in all the garbage they may hand out and that I can move
towards that person in love and grace, rather than in merely reacting to his/her
words or behavior. I see that mercy takes real work--not to grit my teeth and
force myself to be merciful, but to hand over my anger, frustration, and resentment
to God and to ask Him to be my lead in the relationship so that what I do and
say is according to His Spirit rather than according to the immediate situation.
We have to make room within ourselves to be merciful. And this is what we see
God has done. God makes room in Himself to extend mercy to us. It costs Him
in the very heart of His triune relationship to be merciful. Yet He freely
and joyfully does and blesses us with it.
Mercy is truly a wonderful thing. Jesus reassures us that the impulse to be
merciful is not wimpy but from His very heart working in us. And to think that
some day we will know the depth of His mercy towards us, we will know that
none of the darkness, pain, pettiness, or sin will be the last word on us--that
is truly to be blessed.
Now Jesus goes on, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." What
does it mean to be pure in heart? Well, if we look at why exactly they are blessed,
we see that is it because they will see God. So the pure in heart are longing
to see God. Now why is it that someone who is pure in heart would want to see
God? They wonder what the connection is between God and everything around them.
The person whose heart is pure knows their heavenly Father is the giver of all
abundant, joyful and good life. He/she knows that something is only truly known
and received when its connection to God is seen, its relationship to God is known.
Then we know it at its purest, deepest meaning. It isn't always easy to
see the connection to God and it may take a lot of thinking and work to get there,
but this is what the pure in heart are driven to do. God surely is in this somewhere,
they believe. In the end, all things have to do with God.
In this world, it is considered savvy to look at everything in terms of how
one can turn it to their own advantage. We wonder what will benefit us. It
is better to be practical about all things and consider their use to us rather
than their meaning and purpose in God's created and purposeful universe.
The pure in heart long to see the connection between people, made in the image
of God, and the God who made them. They see, even if this person doesn't
see or care, that he or she is really only known as they are known in God and
where they stand in God's own purposes. The worldly person is more tempted
to see this person as an object, as a means to his/her own ends.
Because the worldly person is less interested in knowing the Source and Heart
of all things, she/he is tempted to be less concerned about integrity or being
entirely consistent in her/his own life. The pure in heart, however, long for
integrity. They long to have their inner life and their outer life be the same.
They want God in every part of their lives and they look forward to the time
when there is no slippage between their outward behavior and their inward character.
It will be wonderful, they think, when there is nothing left to hide inside,
no dark or shameful secret left.
The one who is pure in heart appears impractical in our world. He/she may
seem too intense. "Why does everything have to be seen in connection
to God?" others may ask. "Who cares? Let's just use or enjoy
what is around us and not worry about its deeper meaning." "And
why should we be so concerned about integrity? After all, getting along and
getting ahead in this life is what is the priority. Besides, everybody fudges
here and there--it s no big deal." The pure in heart person may at times
wonder if it is sensible to long so much to know life at its heart, to see
how his/her heavenly Father is related to all that goes on around them.
To get the clearest picture of what it means to be pure in heart, we just
need to look at Jesus. Jesus knew and deeply loved His Father in heaven. His
Father made all that is created, in, through, and for Jesus; (Colossians 1:16)
and Jesus sees, knows, and rejoices in the relationship of all things to His
Father. In fact, God not only created all things in and through Christ, but
is now reconciling all things to Himself in Christ (Col. 1:20) And this reconciliation
is to restore and thus bring out to its fullness, the relationship of all things
to the Triune God. When all things are fully manifest in Christ, we will know
all things at their deepest level because they will be made right in Him.
Jesus also has nothing hidden or dark in Him. All that we see Him say or do
comes out of His heart and can tell us truly who He is. Jesus is what He says
and does. And this enables us to totally and completely count on Him and to
know that as we learn more about Him our new knowledge will not contradict
what we have already see of His great character.
Again Jesus announces good news. If you are longing at times for something
deeper, if you are hoping even in this life to see and know the deepest meaning
of the people and things around us, then you are responding to God's
pure heart working in your own. Don't try to beat that out of yourself.
Jesus says, it is a sign of blessing from God in your life. And the wonder
of it all is that someday you will see God, filling the whole universe with
His glory, and all things able to realize their full connection to God, responding
at last, fully and completely to Him and His glory.
<< Back Next Sermon on the Mount Study >>