“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.” The Greek word used most often in the New Testament for mercy is eleos. It means mercy, pity, the moral quality of feeling compassion and especially of showing kindness toward someone in need. This can refer to a human kindness and to God’s kindness to humankind.” So those who show mercy and kindness to others will receive the same.
To be merciful means to be without judgment, to be compassionate, to care for others when they are troubled or sick, to be kind no matter what the other person is like. It means to extend God’s love and care that we have received to all others. And to treat them as if they, too, belonged in God’s kingdom, of course they do, because we human beings were all made in God’s image.
As the Beatitude says, those who give mercy, “shall be shown mercy.” Here’s what Cynthia Bourgeault says about this teaching: “There’s an exchange going on here; we give mercy and we receive mercy….the root of the word ‘mercy’ comes from the old Etruscan mere, which also gives us’ commerce’ and ‘merchant.’ It’s all about exchange…mercy is not something God has; it’s something that God is. Exchange is the very nature of divine life—of consciousness itself…all things share in the divine life through participation in this dance of giving and receiving…his teaching in this beatitude invites us into a deeper trust of that flow.“
Mercy speaks of compassion and love, or gentleness and kindness and goodness in our approach to others. It speaks of someone who is compassionate and loving towards oneself, of someone who has taken in God’s love and forgiveness, because we cannot give to others what we have not experienced. These are all qualities of the fruit of the Spirit. They are beyond selfishness and defensiveness and the walls we erect to protect ourselves. All these walls have to come down before we can be merciful.
There is a sense in which mercy is birthed in us or in which it comes from our own deepest selves. The ancient root of the word translated ‘mercy’ “from the Greek meant ‘womb’ or an inner motion extending from the center or depths of the body and radiating heat and ardor. The root may also mean ‘pity,’ love,’ ‘compassion,’ a ‘long drawn breath extending grace,’ or an ‘answer to prayer.’ The association of womb and compassion leads to the image of ‘birthing mercy.’”
So we birth mercy from our depths, from our close ties to God, from our growth into the fruit of the Spirit. Mercy is birthed in us when we are healed of all that stands between us and others and between us and God. And when we are gifted with the fruit of the Spirit.
From the world’s point of view mercy is not really an option. We punish. We incarcerate. We might fight the outer causes of a problem like the current opiate addiction, but we focus on the drug dealers and forget our primary concern should be that we need to help those who are addicted get out of the addicted state. No mercy there. Or we blame the poor for their downtrodden condition because we don’t really want to help them. No mercy there.
Mercy comes from God: over and over again in the Bible He exhorted us to take care of the poor. From Exodus through the end of the New Testament we find God’s urging that we take care of the poor –not just to feed and clothe them, but to pay them for their labor, to do justice for them. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary mercy has three definitions: 1) compassion or forbearance [a refraining from the enforcement of something such as a debt, right, or obligation that is due] shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power; also : lenient or compassionate treatment; 2) a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion; and 3) compassionate treatment of those in distress.
As I looked up the definitions of mercy and forbearance in the dictionary, I was surprised to see the forgiving of debts or obligations included. I don’t think we modern people would ever consider forgiving debts an option. Nor would we acknowledge that forbearance also means patience and leniency.
To return to the beatitude where the merciful will be shown mercy, we are back to the idea of exchange. That God gives us what we give to others. That in His creation we are rewarded for the good we do and cursed for the sin or evil we do. He is very clear in Deuteronomy 28 that our choices make the difference whether we are blessed or cursed. God doesn’t have to do a thing to reward or punish. That is built into the choices we make. So if we want mercy, we have to give mercy. If we want to be loved, we have to love. That is how the system works.
So, when we are merciful, we can “walk forth” in the blessing of mercy, knowing that we will be shown mercy, too.
Questions to ponder over the week: Am I merciful? Do I bring compassion and patience and justice wherever I go? Am I forgiving of old debts and obligations? What would it take for me to not just adopt these traits, but to live them, too? Am I merciful, forgiving towards myself and others?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who are merciful and compassionate and forgiving. May we care about justice for everyone.
An Invitation to Women to Pray for our nation, for mercy and compassion for all, for community values and a deep sense of caring for each other. For peace. For love to reign. For a return to a love of God. For us to be “one nation under God” to be our motto again. If many women would pray these things for our country, we could change the world. Invite your friends and neighbors to pray with us. in love and faith, Pat
See the archives of my blog going back to 2008. They are arranged by topic and by date. Enjoy!
 Goodrick & Kohlenberger III, Zondervan NIV Exhaustive Concordance, 2nd Edition, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1999, p. 1547, Strong’s #1799.
 Genesis 1:27
 Cynthia Bourgeault, The Wisdom Jesus, Shambhala, Boston & London, 2008, p. 45
 Neil Douglas-Klotz, Prayers of the Cosmos: Reflections on the Original Meaning Of Jesus’s Words, HarperOne, NY, 1990, p. 60