Following Dallas Willard’s line of thinking in The Divine Conspiracy, we don’t believe Jesus is saying, “Be merciful and you will be blessed.” Rather, his idea is, “As a tender-hearted person you get stepped on and burdened by people’s pain, yet the Father of mercies is always delighting in you.” (Matthew 5:7, paraphrase)
That is really good news! Especially, if you’re sensitive-hearted. It means that no matter what hurtful thing happens to you — and no matter if you feel discouraged, worried, or frustrated — there is a source of warm joy and peace in the face of Jesus’ Father turned toward you.
Our Lord calls this life in the Kingdom of the Heavens.
In last week’s blog, we took the same line of thinking to understand “Blessed are the peacemakers…” (Matthew 5:9)
Of course, it is important to offer peace and mercy to people. With Jesus’ beatitudes, the question is where is the source of that peace and mercy? How do we experience and offer these graces in a harsh world?
Not by trying hard to do what we should in order to be blessed by God! Paul calls that the world’s “hollow and deceptive philosophy” (Colossians 2:8). In step with Christ, he begins all of his sermons and letters with the grace of God.
Jesus sets the model for us in his Sermon on the Mount and all of his teachings. He shows us God’s love and proclaims divine blessings upon us. From there he shows us that the best life is to be a more loving person. (I unpack this in our booklet Jesus’ Greatest Teaching: Living the Sermon on the Mount. These four short chapters are great for morning devotionals or small groups.)
When we preach grace sermons like Jesus, people want to come to church. When we write grace blogs and Bible studies like Paul, people want to read and grow.
From the Lord Jesus, we can learn to befriend the emotions of the soft-hearted and the merciful — even if you’re a thinker and a doer like me! Being tender toward people’s weakness is one of the most important attributes for Christ’s pastors and leaders.
If your words and manner of relating to people are not gracious then people will step back from you — no matter how wise or attractive or powerful you are. This is not merely a behavioral skill to add to your leadership repertoire. Mercy for the hurting, needy, and broken comes from absorbing the mercy of Jesus and his Abba for your own inner child.
But many of us, especially if we’re in leadership, don’t like to think of ourselves as hurting, needy, broken, or child-like. Jesus was clear, “Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Mark 10:15)
You see, it’s not just the sensitive-hearted that need Jesus’ beatitude, “Blessed are the merciful…” It’s also the Type A leaders and the academic thinkers. We all have a soft belly and a tender heart. We all need to feel God’s loving presence. We just need to admit it.
May the mercy of Christ pour into you and overflow from you so that you experience the reality of God’s kingdom in all that you do today.