The late American singer who was blind, Roy Orbison sang a song known as “Pretty Woman”. At the end of the first verse he uses the word mercy … “Pretty woman, walkin’ down the street. Pretty woman the kind I like to meet. Pretty woman I don’t believe you, you’re not the truth. No one could look as good as you, mercy.”
His first wife, Claudette Frady, left home walking to the shops. When she returned Roy had completed a song about her, which became his most loved and popular song. Bill Dees, who was co-writer of “Oh, Pretty Woman,” tells the story behind of Roy Orbison’s most enduring hit saying … “He turned to me with the guitar lick, and he said, ‘I feel like I need to say something while they’re playing [that guitar lick],'” Dees says. “I said, ‘Well, you’re always saying (the word) ‘mercy,’ why don’t you say mercy?’ You know, I said, ‘Every time you see a pretty girl you say mercy.'” (www.npr.org/)
The word “mercy” as its used there is an appreciation of a lady’s external beauty. The word “mercy” in the fifth Beatitude is because of internal beauty! It reads like this:
Mt 5:7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Remember the beatitudes flow from one to the next. Blessed always means congratulations because Jesus is delighted with intentional Christianity. It started with the understanding of spiritual bankruptcy following by mourning over sin in one’s life. As these two are responded to, the believer, being intentional about Jesus’ requirements pursues a spiritually transformed character that results in the opposite of arrogance and continually seeks maturity in Jesus. The outcome of this is an emotional response of mercy to those in need.
1) Mercy is an attribute of God. Often we read of God being compassionate in Scripture. Compassion or being compassionate means mercy or merciful. This may be seen in
Ex 34:5 Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.
Ps 116:5 The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.
In the beatitudes Jesus is saying that his followers need to copy the attributes of His Father Blessed are the merciful. Throughout the gospel we find Jesus being merciful to many people by healing, exorcising demons, feeding, being kind, raising the dead and returning them to their family.
2) Mercy is an attitude. The believers sees others out there in need who are unable to meet their needs. As Strong’s Concordance put it … “to bring help to the wretched”. The purpose is that they experience mercy through being helped by God’s people. We have been doing some house repairs that required work done that I could not do. The builder and his assistant walk for 1 ½ hours from the Taxi Terminal to our house. They are prepared to do something to enable work resulting in money for survival. In return, apart from a reasonable payment, I give them breakfast and lunch. I am sure many Christians will do the same … however, one Christian said to me that because I do this, the workers will expect it from others too. That attitude shows a lack of mercy!
3) Mercy is an ability. The Bible provides a few lists of spiritual gifts or abilities, none of which are exhaustive. Take the following passage
Rom 12:6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
The last mentioned here is mercy. In a specific way, certain people enjoy the gift of mercy that enables them to be a “Willian Wilberforce” who gave away his wealth to the needy. But in a general way, all Christians have the Holy Spirit dwelling within and if “mercy” is an attribute of God that we His people need to copy, it is an ability possibly because of the Spirit. The application of this beatitude flows from some of the parables Jesus taught.
(1) Mercy is an inward sentiment … (attitude) that leads to direct action. (Read Matthew 25:31-45.)
Mt 25:37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’”
Mercy is seeing the need and responding automatically without thinking. The need is seen and without evaluating personal rewards or benefits, one does the right thing and assists the needy.
(2) Mercy has no strings attached. (Read Matthew 18:21-35)
Mt 18:26 “The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
In this parable a man owes a great debt, yet because he pleaded and begged, his master cancelled the debt. That is mercy without strings attached. Yet this servant did not treat his colleague in the way the master treated him. When the master found this out, the servant was punished and was jail until he could “payback the money”. The parable deals with forgiveness. Because God forgives us without conditions, we took need to forgive others without conditions. This beatitude teaches that when we offer mercy we will receive mercy. It teaches that since you are merciful, based upon that attitude, what follows is receiving mercy. This is the intention of the beatitude. Because of God’s generous mercy towards us believers, we need to show mercy for many are in need of material, financial and food help. Others need general help, kindness and guidance … and all lost souls need mercy enabling us to share the Gospel with them.
Lord, as Your children, saved by grace, You are so kind and merciful to us. Help us to be merciful to the needy. Amen .