Be you therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
The world of the natural man is by no means predominantly a merciful world. "The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel." A thoroughly bad man is seldom a kind man. The kindliness of a bad man is generally both capricious and selfish. At its best it lacks the essential condition of a Christian charity. Not everything which passes for kindness, not everything which is kindness, is "mercy" in the sense here intended. There is another word in Scripture, which stands for pity, and the two ideas differ.
1. The objects of pity are the unhappy: the objects of mercy are the undeserving.
(1) Mercy is seen towards those who have no claim upon us. The good Samaritan was merciful as well as pitiful; because the robbed and wounded man whom he succoured was wholly unconnected with him; was not only no relation, but even an alien and of a hostile race.
(2) Mercy is shown, yet more strongly, towards those who have forfeited their claim upon us; those who had a claim, and have lost it. The prodigal son.
2. The nature of mercy.
(1) Sympathy. A fellow-feeling with the undeserving. A deep consciousness of personal demerit, making me at once the equal and the brother of the undeserving.
(2) This sense of fellowship with the sinner is accompanied with a sense of the evil of sin. By this it is prompted.
(3) A desire for the good — the highest good — of the sinful. Mercy rests not in the fall. Mercy is not satisfied with bewailing the misery. Mercy expends not itself in sighs and tears, sits not down with the sorrow and the sinfulness which she both beholds and feels: she looks upward, and she looks onward — upward for help, onward to salvation; and is as ready to succour as she is prompt to sympathise.
3. The working of mercy.
(1) Compassionate thoughts. Mercy, like every grace, has its seat within. We must begin with the heart. The thoughts of mercy will be disciplined into charitableness before she begins to speak or to do. She will recount inwardly the revelation of God concerning sin itself; how it first entered into the world; how it spread its reign hither and thither, till a flood of evil had hidden earth itself from heaven; how it works in the child, struggles for mastery in the man, and leads captive in unsuspected bonds souls born for immortality and for God. She knows how subtle are its workings, how fatal its delusions, how strong its chains. She pities even where she must condemn, and, where she cannot trust, she can at least hope still.
(2) Compassionate thoughts come forth naturally into kindly words. The merciful man speaks mercifully.
(3) Compassionate thoughts and kindly words will run on, lastly, into practical efforts. A man who has a feeling of compassion should always act upon it.
Parallel VersesKJV: Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
WEB: Therefore be merciful, even as your Father is also merciful.