Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Matthew 5:7
When somebody who has deeply wronged us asks us to forgive him or her, a flood of emotions can come over us. Suddenly flashing through our minds are all the wicked things that this person has done to us, and a part of us wants to say, “No, I won’t forgive you. You should suffer the same way you’ve made me suffer.” That is a totally human response. But it’s not the way a believer should respond.
As we have seen, a distinct contrast exists between Christians and non-Christians. We see this clearly in the fifth Beatitude. Jesus told us in the first four Beatitudes that God’s favor rests upon the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Then He said, “Blessed are the merciful.” God’s favor, He said, rests upon those who show mercy.
A true Christian will show mercy for at least two reasons. First of all, we must be merciful because God’s mercy has been lavished upon us. In the Psalms we read, “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him” (Ps. 103:10–11). God hasn’t dealt with us according to our sins—He has shown us mercy. As recipients of His mercy, we in turn are to have the same attitude toward others.
But second, a true Christian will be merciful because he is a partaker of the divine nature (see 2 Pet. 1:4). A lot of people consider themselves Christians but are not Christians in the biblical sense—they have never been born of the Spirit. They may go to church or live a good life, but biblically speaking, a Christian is someone who has an intimate, personal relationship with Christ and is a partaker of the divine nature, meaning, God by His Spirit lives in them.
The Nature of God
Since we possess within our very beings the nature of God, and since it is part of God’s nature to be merciful and forgiving, we as His children will be like Him. If God dwells in us, His merciful heart will show itself through our lives to those who have wronged us.
The word “mercy” occurs hundreds of times in the Bible, quite often to describe the Lord and the way He deals with us. In Exodus 34, God revealed Himself to Moses and described Himself as “the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Exod. 34:6–7). Psalm 103:8 similarly says, “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.”
God has this characteristic of mercy, so we as His children ought to have the same inclination toward people who have wronged us. We may be tempted to withhold mercy, but the work of the Spirit in our hearts will override that.