Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Matthew 5:7 When are we most Christlike?

I have to admit something to you who read this blog. I have been dreading this verse for months. Every since I started the book of Matthew over a year ago I knew this was coming and I was not looking forward to it. You see, I started this study of the gospel of Matthew because I recognize there are things in my life that are not Christlike at all. I am ashamed of it. I’m not nearly as much like my Lord as I want to be. Verse 5, which spoke of gentleness, was not easy for me because there are times when I do not exhibit the characteristic of gentleness. In fact, sometimes I’m downright awful and my temper shows. God has done a work in me and I’m better than I used to be regarding my ability to control my temper but I still mess up far more frequently than I care to admit. Then, I get to this verse and I see, yet again, how fall short I fall. I don’t suppose y’all would let me skip this verse, huh?

No? I didn’t think so. Please pray for me that God will continue to use this book to convict me of my sin and the He will enable to remain true to my convictions regarding expositing His word on this blog in spite of my many shortcomings.

Jesus is again explaining what true happiness is about. If someone wanted to know how to have his or her best life now, this is the guaranteed blueprint to do just that. Our Lord teaches here that someone who is “Blessed” (Gr “makarios” 3107-happy) will exhibit the quality of being “merciful”. In his Notes on the Bible, Albert Barnes remarks that we are most like God when we are merciful. We know that God is a merciful God and that He forgives repentant sinners. We should ask ourselves if we seek to be imitators of God and of Christ, how does this quality of mercy work in a practical sense in our daily lives. What should it/does it look like?

I believe one way we can show mercy is by helping to meet the needs of people who are in distress. If we see someone who is cold, hungry, or sick we can take the opportunity to show the love of Christ to them by helping to meet their physical needs. In Matthew 15;32 Jesus instructed His disciples to feed a group of people to whom He had preached because He was moved with compassion for their physical needs. Numerous times, Jesus mercifully healed someone due to having been moved with compassion (Matthew 20:34 and Mark 1:41). Of course, we are not able to supernaturally heal people today—our God alone does that. However, we can help meet people’s needs as a way of showing the mercy of God to these people.

The primary idea in this verse, however, probably has more to do with you and I being willing to forgive someone who wrongs us. I stink at this. I mean, I really stink at this. God has taken me to the woodshed and convicted me of the sin of unforgiveness many times. My flesh wants to avenge wrongs that people do to me. It’s literally like I have a list and when someone does something to me, it goes on that list and I hold onto it until such time as I can pay them back. I am ashamed to admit that. There are things that people have done to me years ago that I still hold onto. I have said I would lay it down but I usually end up having picked it up again. I feel that I have justification for doing this. I am the victim. They hurt me. I want to pay them back for what they did. I have earned the right to revenge myself, right?This verse doesn’t give me that option. There are no real tricky Greek words here. No dazzling verb tenses or tough exegesis involved. If I am not merciful, I will be judged. As I read these words, I am reminded of the parable of the unjust servant in Matthew 18. I think of the mercy my Lord has shown me and continues to show me. I sin regularly yet He continues to forgive me when I repent and ask for forgiveness. My sin is a greater affront to Him than anything any person could ever do to me. The debt, to borrow the image from that parable, that I owed Him was greater than I could ever hope to pay. My Lord didn’t just forgive the debt, He in fact paid for it with the precious blood of His own Son. He charged His Son guilty and declared me not guilty. And there is no catch with Him. It’s not like He’ll bring it up later and use my past sin against me. As Paul said in Romans 8:1 “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. His mercy is such a great blessing in light of my sinful, wicked heart.

When I think of the depth of my sin I also have to admit that it is far greater than any wrong anyone has committed against me. I usually, when someone wrongs me, want to get revenge. At bare minimum, I want to exclude them from my life. I want to have no further dealings with them on any level. It’s like once you’ve sinned against me, you’ve used up all three strikes in one fell swoop. How would I feel, though, if that is how my Lord treated me. He forgives me and restores fellowship. I want to remain unforgiving and break fellowship. Here’s the deal, some of the people with whom I have hard feelings are people that I have to see on a regular basis. My desire to ignore them has made things uncomfortable. I am typing this and reading the clear teaching of Christ in this verse that those who show mercy “shall receive mercy”.

I want mercy. I am thankful for the mercy that God has shown me. I want to be more like my Lord. That having been said, I recognize that my unwillingness to forgive is sin. I find myself convicted yet again and ask God to change my heart and make me more like Jesus. I pray that God will help me to be forgiving so that I will demonstrate His love. Since He forgave me my great debt, I should be willing to forgive people for their totally insignificant debts.

Praise God for His mercy.

Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible Copyright 1960, 1962, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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