Matthew 5:7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
The Greek word used here means “merciful, compassionate, sympathetic.” Wayne Grudem defines mercy as “God’s goodness toward those in misery and distress.” In Matthew, chapter 18, Jesus told the story of the unmerciful servant who was thrown into prison because he couldn’t pay his very large debt. The servant pleaded with his master to forgive him his debt. When the master forgave the servant, this servant turned right around and demanded that a fellow servant pay his very small debt to him. Even thought the master had forgiven an enormous sum of money (the equivalent of millions of dollars), this servant would not extend mercy to his fellow servant. He hadn’t internalized God’s mercy. His heart was hard.
There are two sources of a merciful heart revealed in this story. First, mercy comes from knowing the enormous debt which God has forgiven us. If we think we are ‘pretty good people’ who just need a little religion, then we will not be merciful toward others. Once our eyes have been opened to see the enormity of our offence (our debt) against God, the injuries which others have done to us appear by comparison extremely trifling.
Second, mercy comes from having a soft heart, both toward God and toward others. John Stott, in answer to the issue of whether our mercy from God is dependent on us showing mercy to others (which would be salvation by works), says, “This is not because we can merit mercy by mercy or forgiveness by forgiveness, but because we cannot receive the mercy and forgiveness of God unless we repent, and we cannot claim to have repented of our sins if we are unmerciful towards the sins of others.” When we personally experience and acknowledge God’s mercy, it transforms us into merciful, compassionate, kind, loving people, who, out of gratitude for God’s mercy, extend mercy to others. When we extend mercy to others, it is a clear indication that we have internalized God’s mercy towards us.