True Christianity is about being a Christian, not doing Christianity. This is the emphasis of the gospel. Christianity is a supernatural change wrought in us by the power of the Holy Spirit that takes place at the center of our being. It controls all our thoughts, all our outlooks, all our imaginations, and all our actions. That is why the New Testament talks about being born again, and becoming a new creation and receiving a new nature. It is something that happens to you. Paul wrote, “I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me.” You do not control Christianity, but instead, Christianity controls you. The Beatitudes are searching, they reveal the truth of our Christianity or lack thereof.
First, let me mention what this verse does not mean. It does not mean that we should be “easygoing,” as we put it. There are so many people today who think that being merciful means to be easygoing; to not see things, or if we do see them, pretend that we do not. Our culture thinks a merciful person is someone who smiles at sin or just simply looks the other way. Remember, whatever we believe “merciful” to mean, it must be consistent with the character of God because God is merciful.
The Biblical understanding of mercy is a sense of pity, plus a desire to relieve the suffering. Thus, the essential meaning is pity plus action. It is giving help to the afflicted and rescue to the helpless—compassion in action.
A great New Testament illustration of being merciful is the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30). We learn from this story that mercy does not mean only feeling pity, but it means a great desire to relieve the situation.
The supreme example was God sending His own Son to this earth. Also, the words uttered by Jesus from Calvary, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Jesus, in his mercy, took on the death of the cross so that we may no longer have to suffer in sin. Even more, He showed mercy for those who were in the act of crucifying Him by praying to God for them.
How is mercy manifested through the Christian?
There is perhaps no other Beatitude that has been misunderstood quite so frequently as this one. Some people would interpret it like this: they might say, “ If I am merciful towards others, God will be merciful towards me; If I forgive, I shall be forgiven.” This is not the case.
The Lord is saying that we are only truly forgiven when we are truly repentant. To be truly repentant means that I realize I deserve nothing but punishment and that if I am forgiven, it is only by His mercy. When someone understands that, they will indeed show mercy in the same way they have received mercy.