Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy (Matthew 5:7).
I preached on this verse recently and during my study, it hit me all over again: you cannot have true biblical mercy apart from the Law of God. This is why the world’s mercy is so empty. As Jordan Peterson pointed out in one of his lectures, the left’s concern with the poor is never a concern or love of the poor, but born out of a hatred for the rich. That is not true biblical mercy.
First off, how should biblical mercy be defined. Allow me to quote from John Stott:
“Mercy is compassion for people in need. Richard Lenski helpfully distinguishes it from grace: ‘the noun eleos (mercy) … always deals with what we see of pain, misery and distress, these results of sin; and charis (grace) always deals with the sin and guilt itself. The one extends relief, the other pardon; the one cures, heals, helps, the other cleanses and reinstates.’”
As you can see, true biblical mercy is seeking the wellbeing of the person in need. It’s not just compassion. Many can have compassion for the downtrodden that never goes anywhere. We are to have compassion, but compassion that is not left alone. It must result in mercy, actually working for the wellbeing of the person in need. This may include giving money, but that should not be the sole basis of our mercy.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) shows us what true biblical mercy looks like. It’s not my purpose to exegete the entire parable, but to show that the mercy that the Samaritan showed the man who was in need, was born out of the Law. The entire account was started by a lawyer, who was trying to test Jesus, who stood up and said, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus takes him to the law: “What is written in the law?”
The lawyer rightly answers and says: “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
Then the crucial question follows: “And who is my neighbor?”
the neighbor is the one who showed mercy to the downtrodden. It wasn’t the lawyer, who knew the law. It wasn’t the Pharisee or the priest. It was the one who carried out the law by showing mercy.
The Samaritan carried out the law by loving the wounded man as he would have loved himself. The greatest commandments are a summaries of the Ten Commandments, the Law itself. While the Ten Commandments are in the negative, keeping them is in the positive and how we show mercy and love towards our neighbors. Putting others first is at the heart of the Law. We see this being born out by Christ Himself, the Lawgiver and Law keeper. He showed complete and true mercy in carrying out His ministry, not at the expense of the Law, but grounded in the Law.
The beauty in His mercy is that is goes much deeper than the mercy we can give. He became our curse for us, a curse brought on by breaking the Law, in order to show the greatest mercy to us. Jesus ends up being our Good Samaritan. He is the one who finds us, binds our wounds and rinses us with His shed blood. He is the One who provides what we need in order to be healed. He takes care of us.
But unless we see the Law as it is intended to be seen, we will fail to see our need for mercy, and fail to see the richness of the Mercy giver toward us.