CMC Eps 14 – MATTHEW 5: 7 – HAVE MERCY

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Hi.. I’m Gene Ort.. and you’re listening to the common man commentary..

This is podcast #14..  We will be looking at MATTHEW 5:7

The title for this podcast is: “ Have Mercy ”

““Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

Matthew 5:7 ESV

The definition of mercy : compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.  

It’s cousin, Grace, being defined as being given something you did not earn nor deserve. 

One of the ways I have heard mercy explained over the years was this: having done something wrong and not getting the deserved punishment also known as, Your just deserts and What you had coming, Karma and a personal favorite.. what goes around comes around. 

Mercy on the surface sounds quite nice..a beautiful sentiment. It’s particularly attractive to the offender. I do something horrible to you and you grant me mercy and i get off “ scot free “.  Side note..the origin of the phrase scot free is Scandinavian. The original spelling was skat and meant tax so in essence it meant tax free. Wouldn’t that be nice.

So here we are.. I have done a bad thing.. I would like some mercy please. You say ok, Gene, I will show you mercy. I will show you compassion, you are forgiven. 

Let’s say my offense was eating the last of the ice cream after you asked me to leave it for you for later.  Depending on the person, this is either the unpardonable sin or a mere mild disappointment.  Showing mercy to me over such an offense might be easy or difficult. 

For the forgiver or mercy descender in this little story, there are decisions to make and a reality to face.  To give this mercy or forgive this debt, the forgiver has to pay the expense of purchasing more ice cream and a locking refrigerator.  The point is it’s not free to forgive. It costs the forgiver something. Sometimes a lot.  There are several parables coming later in the gospel that Jesus will use as tools to define the cost of mercy. It can get very expensive. 

So, lets get a bit more real. Lets say the offense is a bit more serious. If you are at all like me, it won’t take you long to begin to develop a list of offenders. My list goes all the way back.. to early childhood and extends to present day.  The small offenses fall off the radar over time.. but the big ones.. they stick around, they imprint, they become a part of me.

Some of the offenses took something irreplaceable. No quick trip to the ice cream isle is gonna fix those. 

I recently heard Richard Rohr make this comment : “If you don’t understand forgiveness, you are missing the whole mystery of God. Without forgiveness, Rohr suggests, we are “still living in a world of meritocracy, of quid-pro-quo thinking, a world of performance and behavior at which none of us succeed, if we are honest.”

I don’t know where I heard this one :  “ we judge, condemn or take offense in others because their actions, but want others to give us a pass, because our intentions were not all that bad. “

It’s impossible to travel very far into the life and teachings of Jesus without running smack into forgiveness as a primary theme.  He says to some very religious folk.. : “ go and learn what this means : “ I desire mercy not sacrifice .. Matthew 9:3 “ Sacrifice here meaning payment, judgement or compensation for an offense.  Much later in the story Jesus will make a statement that should stop everyone in their tracks : as he is being murdered, He says to our Heavenly Father, “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing “.   By the way, I don’t think the statement was restricted to just those present that day.

In this situation, the Roman government and the Religious leaders of the day decide the the most intelligent thing to do would be to murder an innocent man because he threaten’s their positions of power and privilege by teaching the truth about God’s kingdom and the true nature of God.

This kind of wrong thinking .. “ they don’t know what they are doing” can be defined as a type of insanity.. 

Jesus has put on public display the answers to humanities biggest problems, he heals the sick people, calms storms, feeds thousands and raises people from the dead.  Their answer.. kill him. 

That’s insane.  Yet Jesus uses this very situation to model the ultimate mercy.

“Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing” 

One of the most uncomfortable parts of this passage is what appears to be the transactional element. 

Those who give mercy, receive mercy.  Is it really a transaction or a consequence?

Merciful people will receive mercy just because thats the kind of people they are.  

The unforgiving or unmerciful will get what they have given. 

It would be good to note here that Jesus rarely teaches in specifics, he teaches principles. He most often uses story or parable to get His point across. 

Later in the Gospel, Jesus is asked : “will you teach us to pray like you do ? “

He does : it includes.. “ and forgive us our debts ( things we should have done but did not do ) or sins ( things we did but should not have done ), as we forgive those who did not do for us what they should have or did to us what they should not have. “

It’s the “ as we forgive “ part that puts us in a bind.  

Jesus is clearly saying in order to be forgiven, you must forgive.. blessed are the merciful, they will obtain mercy. 

Why ?  When we have clearly been “ done wrong “ should we be forced into showing mercy or forgiving someone when they don’t even care the slightest about the hurt they have caused us and the loss we have suffered. Is it just to satisfy some religious rule made up by pious fanatics ?

If your idea of who God is includes a punitive, punishment oriented mean old man just waiting for you to do something wrong so He can “smite“ you.. than that might be how you feel. It’s a rule, and you may try and give lip service to forgiveness in order to not tick the mean old god off. 

But lets say you don’t see God that way. Lets just say that Jesus might be giving us a very strong hint into the true nature of God and His forgiveness and mercy from the very cross used to murder him.  I don’t see any sort of revengeful spewing of hateful “ God’s gonna give even with you “ language coming from his mouth. Instead there is a soft hearted plea to not hold this offense against us, us being humanity. It seems to me to be addressing us as being so lacking in understanding that we are completely clueless to the wickedness of our own actions.   Jesus is making this statement with compassion, for us. This is by definition, Love.  

For God so loved the world..that He gave … His only..   you can finish it… 

Lets look for a minute at some of the practical effects of not showing mercy and forgiving.. 

Jesus says you will be happy if you show mercy, so by default, you will be unhappy if you hold on to offenses. 

Here is one of the most enlightening quotes I have heard on the topic:  “holding on to an offense is like drinking poison and expecting your offender to die”.

Not showing mercy, not forgiving will eat you alive while your offender might go merrily along their way oblivious to or uncaring about what they have done to you.

Before we look at the how part of this, it’s good to note that mercy and forgiveness doesn’t mean giving your offender free rain to abuse, degrade, use or manipulate you. We are instructed to Love God and Love ourselves. Loving ourselves does not mean allowing others to run us over again and again. There has been some horrible religious nonsense taught forever that endorses the domination and degradation of nearly everyone at one time or another. This is not our heavenly Father’s desire for us. Just taking the abuse is a lie.  But you can move on and still forgive.

So if we aren’t just checking off the show mercy box and believe that we are being like Jesus when we show mercy and forgive then how do we do it ?

Choose. Make a decision, everything starts there.  We don’t automatically just know how to do very many things. We have to first make a decision to try, and then with practice, we get better at it.  Our feelings may not follow instantly, but they will catch up with time and repetition. I used to think as a Jesus follower, I should have just gotten the magical download and poof! I’m perfect.. it’s just not true.  If that were true, then Jesus wouldn’t have had to teach at all. We would all just raise our hands and been instantly perfect. 

When I really started to be intentional about learning how to show mercy and forgive, I read somewhere to make a list of my past offenders.. that was painful..i did not like reliving that junk, but it was necessary.  There, one by one, I would ask Jesus to help me do this. My emotions did not always get the message the first time through. There are some offenses that will need to be repeated many times. Jesus once told Peter he would have to forgive some people 70×7. The point being a lot more than once.  This was my way.. you may need to explore a different path. To become a mercy giver, you will need to exercise that muscle. Start with the easier offenses and learn a little a time how good it can feel to release them. I would often use my imagination to help. I would grasp the invisible offense in my hands and clench my fists until I felt a little discomfort and then drop the offense into an imaginary abyss and watch it vanish into the blackness. That might seem a little overly dramatic but you need to do what you need to do create a specific memory of forgiving the offense. Something to point to. 

There was also another list.. one that for me was equally painful. It was the list of people I had offended. I prayed and asked Jesus to bring the ones that I needed to address to mind. I did the same thing with this list, one by one taking each circumstance to Jesus, asking for forgiveness and healing for them and asking for direction. It may seem like the right thing to do is to contact everyone you ever hurt or offended in anyway and make amends or apologize. That may not be the best thing. Bringing other people back into a deeply hurtful situation may cause them a good deal more pain than you think.  The Holy Spirit is our guide in these matters, ask Him for direction and listen as best you can. You don’t want your healing to come at somebody else’s expense no matter how noble it might sound. Letting the forgiveness come to you from Jesus could actually be the best unselfish way to move forward. You may want to hear the words, you are forgiven.. but the cost might be to high for them. 

This process is a lot like reparenting yourself. Some parents have a good handle on this and teach their children about forgiving, other parents do not. If you had parents that taught this and exampled it than you are fortunate. If not, you can choose to learn it now as an adult with Jesus help.    

There are many great books on this topic. Many good therapists and teachers now address the more human elements of psychology with Jesus centered teaching. I have often found these very helpful.  The modern western church has often missed the boat when it comes to helping people deal with the very real damage done to us as children and circumstances of life. Jesus engaged people face to face and hand to hand giving real help to the wounds of life. 

The weight of unforgiveness  is crushing. It will tear you up emotionally and physically. We were never meant to carry that kind of load. Jesus instruction was to not even to let the sun go down on your anger. 

To truly learn to be a mercy giver.. you will need Jesus, the greatest mercy giver ever to lead you there.

Well thats enough to think about for now..

Until next time ..  I am Gene Ort and Thank you for listening to the common man commentary. 

I’D LIKE TO LEAVE YOU WITH This “ blessing :

Love God. Love Yourself. Love the next person He puts in front of you.