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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Journey to the Cross - Blessed are the Merciful

"Mommy - they killed Bambi's mommy," Kelley wailed.  Her loud sobbing almost got us ejected from the theater. My daughter has the spiritual gift of mercy. We didn’t know that when she was younger. All that we knew was that sad movies made her wail. Before I understood her spiritual gift, we teased her about being a "dramma queen." 

When she was 4, she came out of her Presbyterian Day School with tears pouring down her face. “What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Mommy, they killed him!” she wept, shoulders shaking. “How could they do that?

“Killed who?” I asked in a panic.

Jesus,” she cried. “Why would the world kill Jesus?” It was Easter and the teacher had told the children the story of the crucifixion. I held her as I tried to give an explanation for something that that I didn’t understand. Seeing the crucifixion through my daughter’s merciful eyes changed my emotional response to the Easter season.

Kelley’s dramatic empathy and compassion became a family joke. We’d say things like, “There goes Kelley again” when the tears would begin to flow. We felt guilty when she took a spiritual gifts test and we found out mercy was her strongest spiritual gift. The rest of us had those annoying gifts like leadership, prophecy, and teaching. None of us really understood mercy until we let Kelley become our teacher.

The Greek word used for merciful in Matthew 5:7 is eleemon and it means compassionate. Our dictionary definition says mercy is compassionate treatment. The 5th Beatitude we shall study is mercy.


Morning Meditation



Read Matthew 5:7.



Matt 5:7

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. NIV



Let yourself feel compassion for a mother who watched her son be crucified.

• Now turn that compassion to our savior, guilty of nothing, yet dying on the cross.

• Finally, try to allow yourself to feel mercy towards Jesus’ accusers and murderers.





Morning Prayer



If mercy is your spiritual gift, thank God for it.

• If mercy is difficult for you, ask God to send you a teacher.

• Tell God your joys, fears, and needs. Praise Him in everything.

• Pray for knowledge of God’s will for you today and the power to carry that out.

• Ask the Holy Spirit to interpret the scriptures you are about to read.





Morning Bible Study





Have you ever found yourself saying, “He deserved what he got?” What about, “I don’t feel sorry for her. She was asking for it?” Perhaps even worse is, “Thank goodness. I’m glad he finally got what he had coming to him.” How is your compassion? The promise that goes with blessed are the merciful is mercy for ourselves. Do you ever need mercy from God or a relative or friend? The best way to get it is to give it.



Read Matthew 5:7 from the two paraphrases below. Compare and contrast them with the translation above.



Matt 5:7

You're blessed when you care. At the moment of being 'carefull,' you find yourselves cared for. The Message



God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy. NLT





What are the differences?

• What happens when we are merciful?

• What conclusions can you draw?




In an earlier lesson, we talked about forgiveness. Perhaps mercy is a step past forgiveness because we move past anger and on to compassion for the people who have wronged us. Read Psalms 86:15.



Ps 86:15

But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, Slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness and truth. NASU



How is God described?



Luke 6:36-38 instructs us to be merciful and then goes on to explain merciful behavior.



Luke 6:36-38

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure — pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return. NASU



What happens if we don’t judge?

• What happens if we don’t condemn?

• What happens if we pardon?

• What happens when we give?

• How are we measured?




Have you ever met someone who was cruel? Read Proverbs 11:17.



Prov 11:17

The merciful man does himself good, But the cruel man does himself harm. NASU



What does a merciful man do for himself?

• What does a cruel man do for himself?




If you want to learn about mercy, read the short one-chapter book of Jude. The chapter begins with a prayer. Read Jude 1-2.



Jude 1-2

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ: Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance. NIV



Who is the prayer for?

• What is the prayer?




It then goes on to describe the horrors they are facing. Evil people surround them. The book describes what should happen to those people. Read Jude 12-13.



Jude 12-13

These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm-shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted-twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever. NIV



What kind of men live among them?

• What is the fate of these evil people?




The faith of the Christians was slipping so Jude reminded them that God had warned them about what to expect. Read Jude 18-19.



Jude 18-19

In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts. These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.



What are we to expect in the last days?



He then reminds them about the mercy of God. Read Jude 20-21.



Jude 20-21

But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.



What are we to do when surrounded by evil?

• What are we waiting for?




And finally, he tells them to have mercy for those struggling. Read Jude 22-23.



Jude 22-23

And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh. NASU



How are we to feel towards those who doubt?

• How do we help those struggling?

• What emotion goes with mercy for those who seem so far gone?

• How are we to feel about the sin they are committing?



Throughout the Bible, God says to hate the sin and love the sinner. We’re allowed to detest actions of some. We can be terrified by the mistakes they are making but we should always feel compassion about what they are bringing on themselves.


Application



Bob and I spent last Friday frolicking at the zoo with our 2-year-old grandson, Noah. We rode the zoo train and tooted right along with the whistle. We sang animal songs as we passed each animal’s home. We giggled at the monkey’s antics and delighted as the lorikeets landed on our shoulders. We slid down the slides in the playground and bought a toy alligator in the gift shop. It was a perfect day.



Not all grandmas were having such a perfect day. I noticed one grandma scream, “Stop it! You have to calm down.” The child was bouncing with excitement over the monkeys. When we got to the rest room, she waited outside while her grandchildren’s mother went inside. After a couple of minutes of watching her grandchildren play tag in the roomy outside non crowded waiting area, the grandma marched into the rest room and said, “You’d better hurry up before I kill your children.” The mother must have believed her because she started rushing.



Another grandma walked around the zoo carrying a ruler. Every time a child raised their voice, ran, or exhibited any kind of excitement or enthusiasm, grandma crashed the hard ruler down on their legs, leaving ruler shaped whelps. When the 3-year old cried over a stinging leg, this grouchy mean grandma continued to strike him, trying to get him quiet. I glared.



“How can they treat children this way,” I fumed to my husband. “If you can’t play at a zoo, where can you play? These grandmas need to learn to have fun.”



I occasionally spanked my children but only when they were openly defiant and nothing else worked. The times I had to spank hurt me. They were private moments when I had to love my children enough to set a serious boundary. I have never spanked someone else’s child and I pray spanking a grandchild will never be my responsibility. My mental fuming at this abuse went on for days.



Then, I began writing this devotion. I knew I wanted to write this story. I decided to talk about how little compassion these wicked grandmothers were showing their grandchildren. I intended to make the point that they were teaching a behavior to these children that would later be returned to them. I planned on ending with saying that when we show mercy, we are given mercy. Since these grandmas showed so little mercy, they would most likely receive little compassion back from the grandchildren.



Then I read the Bible passages about mercy. I realized the story was about my own lack of compassion for these harried unhappy grandmas. As God began to convict me, I began to feel compassion. I grew sad that they would never have the joy that I have with Noah. I felt badly for how these children would one day treat these women. I realized that these two women’s grandmas had probably treated them the same way. I thought back to my own sweet grandma and felt blessed. I remembered rocking my grandma, her frail body in my arms, during her last days on earth. These grandmas would most likely never experience being rocked by a loving grandchild.



I still hate what those women did to the excited sweet little children but God gave me compassion for those troubled miserable women who didn’t know how to have fun at the zoo. Now I understood the scripture. This scripture is to us – to you and me. We may judge the sin but we may not judge the sinner. It goes even further than that. We are to love the sinner – with our entire soul, mind, heart, and strength. We can feel the compassion of Jesus by seeing what the sin is doing them. Maybe that’s what it means to love our neighbors as ourselves.



This Lenten season, is the behavior of someone upsetting you? Look at the world through their eyes. Seek compassion instead of judgment.

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