“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
- Matthew 5:7
The Lord Jesus calls those blessed, who are merciful. He means those who are full of compassion and kindness towards others. The word our Lord uses is “eleemon” which means ”to give help to the wretched, to relieve the miserable.”
This kind of mercy has two qualities: 1) it sympathizes with those hurting, and 2) it desires to make their suffering less.
Do you know the difference between empathy and sympathy? Empathy means experiencing someone else's feelings, personally knowing their pain. Empathy comes from the German Einfühlung, or ‘feeling into.’ It requires an emotional component, it requires a connection.
Sympathy, on the other hand, has no prerequisite. Sympathy is the willingness to understand someone else's suffering. It's more cognitive; it is a choice.
Empathy says, “I've been there, so I get it.” Sympathy says, “I haven't been there, nor do I need to go there, but I'm here with you now.”
That is what makes sympathy beautiful; sympathy is the conscious choice to care. And when we CHOOSE to care, we are moved to act. Biblical mercy is concern in action (compassion).
We see this illustrated in the Old Testament in what God calls the “mercy seat.” The mercy seat was located on top of the ark of the covenant (a fancy piece of furniture), and flanked on either end by two cherubim (warrior angels) (Exodus 25:19).
It is here, at the mercy seat, where God would meet His people— Exodus 25:22 declares, “There I will meet with you.”
The mercy seat was where God would meet His people and forgive their sins. Once a year, at the mercy seat, the priest would make an animal sacrifice. Being moved with compassion for His sinful people, God took action to reconcile them to himself by accepting the sacrifice in their place. This day was called the “Day of Atonement” (Leviticus 16:2,13, 14, 15).
In the New Testament, under the new covenant, Jesus is the mercy seat.
In Romans 3:25, we learn about Jesus and His work of redemption. Paul states that God put forward Christ “as a propitiation,” a profoundly theological word that points to Christ as the only acceptable, wrath-satisfying sacrifice for sin. Christ is our mercy seat. There, in and through Christ, God meets us.
If God would show us mercy, in that He would give His Son as a sacrifice for sin, who are we to withhold mercy from anyone? To receive mercy from God is to give mercy to others. Those who really understand the mercy that God has shown them in Christ, are eager to extend mercy to others. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
Who in your life today needs mercy? Give it. Give all the mercy they need. And then give some more.
Your prayer today, “God thank you for being merciful to me. Lead me to be merciful to others."