Mercy for judgment

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. (Matthew 5:7)

th-2Mercy is probably the most useful tool in our Gospel of Welcome toolbox, but perhaps the hardest to find. Believe me, we’re going to be pulling this one out every day. The reason for this is: we are all naturally judgmental. Passing judgment comes much more easily to us than showing mercy. It’s the natural reaction to pass judgment on your fellow human beings; it’s supernatural to be merciful.

The opposite of mercy is judgment. Mercy is not easy for me. My whole character leans toward judgment. When you grow up learning to be a Pharisee in the company of Pharisees, it’s hard to shake the tendency to judge others first, ask questions later.

Just yesterday, Marti, Chandler and I were doing some back-to-school shopping for Chandler when we noticed a large group of women taking a yoga class on the lawn in the middle of the outdoor mall. I mentioned something to Marti about how silly they looked, fully expecting her to share a little laugh with me over it. Instead, she rebuked me by pointing out that: 1) they were not all women — there were some men in the group — and 2) if I think they look silly, I should try it, and show us all how silly I would look trying to do the same thing.  Ouch!

This is the ultimate embodiment of Christian hypocrisy: to sit on the sidelines and judge everyone who is participating.

Being judgmental takes no effort. Everybody’s already guilty, so help yourself — there’s plenty more sin and stupidity where that came from; in fact, we’ll never run out of stuff to judge.

Since everybody’s already guilty because of sin, to be judgmental is like taking an unnecessary step. The truth judges us. Our deeds judge us as they reveal our sinful nature. And on top of all this, we are all judged already on the cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus says in the gospel of John that when we accept the gift of salvation He offers, we are judged already. This whole process is already over and done with.

This is why I think Jesus purposely put this backwards in this beatitude. He knew we would eventually find this out. We find out what mercy is all about when we find out what it takes to love and forgive us, jerks that we are. You don’t go muster up a bunch of mercy so God will be merciful to you. You become merciful when you realize what it took for God to be merciful to a scoundrel like you.

You can’t be merciful without God being merciful to you, and God’s mercy to you means nothing until you realize how badly you need it. This is where we learn mercy. We learn it from God. The gentleman I wrote about in yesterday’s Catch who didn’t point out my flaws without also mentioning his own, was being merciful to me. He was handing me something he had received through his own process of walking with God.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Does that mean that if you aren’t merciful you won’t get any mercy? No. It means that if you aren’t merciful, you wouldn’t know mercy if you saw it.

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5 Responses to Mercy for judgment

  1. Consider the words from an ancient Jewish prayer that can still be read today on the wall of Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem: “May it be Your will, God, that I not find faults in anyone. Through Your mercy, may I always merit to judge others favorably; may You bestow upon me the intelligence to understand how to search for and find redeeming factors, strengths, and virtues, in my fellow man, at all times.”

  2. Andrew P. says:

    “When you grow up learning to be a Pharisee in the company of Pharisees, it’s hard to shake the tendency to judge others first, ask questions later.” That’s very true.

    I was thinking about your little story about the yoga class. At one level, one could argue that it’s a waste of energy (or choose your own negative description) for Marti to fuss at you about your reaction. But at another, perhaps much more important level, do you suppose it is good exercise (pun not really intended) for us recovering Pharisees — spiritual exercise, that is — to cultivate a habit of being noncritical when we evaluate things, even mundane things? Might we learn to think more mercifully about the important things, if we make a habit of thinking mercifully about the ordinary stuff of life?

  3. Markus says:

    We are all judgemental every now and then. This is part of our nature, our flesh and sometimes it calls us. The difficulty lies in the fact that we somehow need to come to terms with this, and – simultaneously – we need to NOT come to terms with it. It is our flesh and not our spirit that is struggling with this tendency after all.

    And that is where I see Christ’s mercy at work in us. It enables us to live with this struggle and to carry on with it even though we fall again and again. It awakens that little voice within us that calls us to change to from within. There is so much more that I could say about this, but it all boils down to the fact that I am grateful for Christ having enabled that change within myself and within so many others.

  4. Krabbenhoft, Kevin C says:

    I see Paul expressing this beatitude in Ephesians 5:25-27
    As husbands, we should practice saying “ it’s our fault” that our wives may be spotless.
    Husbands, show your wives mercy by taking the blame and be quick to discern when you begin casting judgment her way.

    And even outside of marriage….
    Judgment often begins with an offense…
    Instead of focusing on the feelings of hurt and disrespect… put your faith into action by taking the blame and then believe God for the promise of sharing in his glory as we suffer a little for His namesake. (inspired by 1 Peter and the Gospel of Matthew)

    Kevin Krabbenhoft

  5. Pingback: Think not that... - Mie Post

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