Jesus’ Definition of Mercy

Jesus’ Definition of Mercy

“‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy’” (Matthew 5:7).

Jesus here is not teaching that being merciful to others merely results in their being merciful to us, but that showing mercy to people brings mercy to us from God. As with the other beatitudes, God blesses those who obey His commands.

“Merciful” derives from the word meaning beneficial or charitable. Christ is our perfect example of mercy and the supreme dispenser of it as our “merciful and faithful high priest” (Heb. 2:17). In the Old Testament the idea has the meanings of love, lovingkindness, and steadfast love (cf. Pss. 17:7; 51:1; Isa. 63:7; Jer. 9:24), and denotes helping the afflicted and rescuing the helpless. It is compassion in action.

So for Jesus, mercy is not a detached, powerless sentiment that merely sympathizes with but is unable or unwilling to provide tangible help for the needy. Our Lord also is in no way endorsing a pretend mercy that gives help only to ease a guilty conscience or impress others with phony virtue. Mercy is genuine compassion expressed in genuine help—and its motives are completely selfless.

Mercy means giving food to the starving, comfort to the bereaved, love to the unloved, forgiveness to the wrongdoer, and friendship to the friendless. Mercy is thus one of the finest and most decent of all Christian virtues.

Ask Yourself

How have you received mercy from another person in your various dealings? What did it cost them? What did it mean to you? What is an example of mercy that you could extend to another, perhaps even in the coming day?


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