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Happiness Is To Be Merciful (5th in Series)

Happy are the merciful for they shall receive mercy. –Matthew 5:7

            In a Peanuts cartoon Lucy says, “I guess I won’t be seeing you until Monday, Charlie Brown….So have a happy week-end.”
            Charlie Brown replies, “Thank you.”  And with a blank stare, he asks, “Incidentally, what is happiness?”
            As much as we want it and seek it, it becomes increasingly clear that one of the problems of attaining happiness is that we are not sure where to look or even what it is.
            Every single thing which the world pursues in the name of happiness can be proved to fail.  We see wealthy who are miserable, powerful who admit their unhappiness, popular who commit suicide, livers of the “good life” who admit to being empty and depressed.
            Why don’t we listen to Jesus? (One of the symptoms of our sin, the disease which afflicts us is our difficulty of seeing clearly or judging reality.)  Even when we try to listen, we sometimes confuse the issue and when Jesus says, “Happiness is…” we tend to say “be poor, be caring, be meek, seek righteousness, be merciful and God will reward you with happiness.”  Instead Jesus is telling us the things which make for happiness and the kind of person who is happy is produced when His spirit is free to work in our lives.
                HAPPINESS IS—TO BE MERCIFUL.  At first glance this seems the simplest of the beatitudes to understand. No special insight required to understand—no difficult explanations of the meaning—we know what it means to have mercy.  William Barclay describes it as “The ability to get right inside the other person’s skin until we can see things with his eyes, think things with his mind, and feel things with his feeling.”
            It is the most descriptive of God’s dealings with us.  If we had to choose one word to describe God’s acting toward human kind, it would be mercy. The Bible insists over and over that we are deserving of God’s wrath, but instead have received mercy.  The mercy which all have received is to be forgiven, respond to Christ’s love and receive a second chance.
                        There is a close connection between receiving forgiveness and giving it.  The same spirit is necessary for both.  Robert Schuller tells the story of Schug, who he described as the California grandmother for his children.  She ate with them and stayed with them:

“One day she came to him: ‘Bob, I was reading in the church bulletin today that you are having a guest speaker next Sunday.  I see you’re having a Kamikaze pilot as your guest.’  Her son had been killed by a Kamikaze pilot and she said that she probably wouldn’t be in church Sunday.
            The next Sunday the Japanese pilot shared his story.  His love and gratitude for Jesus shone from his black eyes.  You could feel the love and release he had found.
            People were moved by his testimony.  And when the service was over, my associate pastor walked with him back down the aisle to the rear of the church.
            Suddenly as they approached the last pew, an older woman stepped out.  She stood firmly in from of the Kamikaze pilot and blocked his exit.  She looked at him squarely and said, ‘My son was killed in the war by a Kamikaze!’
            It was Schug. We all held our breath as she continued, ‘God has forgiven you for your sins, and tonight He has forgiven me of mine.’
            She threw her arms around this little Japanese pilot and hugged him and cried and cried as she released all the bitterness and anger that had been harbored for so many years.”

            It was John Meier who said, “To limitless debt there can be no solution except limitless compassion….A Christian cannot win God’s forgiveness; but he can loose it by refusing to extend it to a brother.”1
            God says,  “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6).   Jesus quoted this verse twice when rules, ways of doing things, personal ease get in the way of touching others.  The mean spirit of some who call themselves Christians clearly contradicts what Jesus is saying here.
            May the mercy we have received be expressed to others.

“The quality of mercy is not strain’d.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘Tis mighest in the mightest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown!”
                                                William Shakespeare

Read all 8.

1(John Meier quoted in Crosby, SOTB, 142)

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