5. the merciful
Blessed are the ‘merciful’ – ‘who treat others like themselves’.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. (Matt.5.7)
Jesus blesses those who seek justice, but reminds us that true justice always needs to be full of mercy. As far as Jesus is concerned, it is impossible for any of us to do justice to one another unless we show the same kind of mercy to others as we would hope – and pray – for others to extend to us in our need.
Jesus said we can summarize all the laws written in holy scriptures, and all of the words uttered by godly prophets, in two commandments – one of which is: ‘love your neighbour as yourself. (Matt.22.39) So true spirituality means you should ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. (Matt 7.12)
In the light of this truth, it is not surprising we can find a reciprocal ‘Mercy Rule’ in all major religions.
The Mercy Rule In Major Religions
|Hinduism ‘Never do to others what would pain you’ Panchatantra 3.104||Buddhism ‘Hurt not others with that which hurts your-self.’ Udana 5.18||Zoroastrianism ‘Do not to others what is not well for oneself.’ Shayast-na-shayast 13.29|
|Jainism ‘One who neglects existence disregards their own existence’
|Confucianism ‘Do not impose on others what you do not yourself desire.’
|Taoism ‘Regard your neigh-bour’s loss or gain as your own loss or gain.’
Tai Shang Kan Ying Pien
|Baha’I ‘Desire not for anyone the things you would not desire for yourself.’
|Judaism ‘What is hateful to you do not do to your neighbour.’
Talmud, Shabbat, 31a
|Christianity ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’.
|Islam ‘Do unto all people as you would they should do to you.’
|Sikhism ‘Treat others as you would be treated yourself.’
In Taoism the Mercy Rule is descriptive. ‘Regard your neighbour’s loss or gain as your own loss or gain.’ In Jainism the call is instructive. ‘One who neglects existence disregards their own existence’. In Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Confucianism, Judaism and Baha’i the Mercy Rule is imperative and is framed in negative terms. ‘Never do to others what would pain you.’ ‘Hurt not others with that which hurts yourself.’ ‘What is hateful to you do not do to your neighbour.’ ‘Do not impose on others what you do not yourself desire’. ‘Desire not for anyone the things you would not desire for yourself.’ While In Christianity, Islam and Sikhism the Mercy Rule is imperative and is framed in positive terms. ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. ‘Do unto all people as you would they should do to you’. ‘Treat others as you would be treated yourself. People of all religions – or none – all over the world know that – there are no short cuts; that there are no quick fixes; and that we cannot hope to do justice, if we do not practice the Mercy Rule, and ‘do unto others as we would have them do unto us’.
Empathy is the heart of mercy. ‘Empathy’ is the capacity to ‘feel how others feel’. It is in ‘empathising’ with potential victims – people in danger or distress – and ‘feeling how they might feel’, that we can be motivated to refrain from harming them and – hopefully- perhaps consider helping them, like Jesus did.One day Jesus was teaching, when a whole crowd of noisy people arrived dragging a woman who had been caught red-handed having an affair. They wanted Jesus to pass judgement on her. According to Jewish law, if this woman was an ‘adulterer’, she was meant to be executed by ‘stoning’. Jesus had gone on public record as being totally opposed to affairs. As a matter of fact, Jesus had gone much further than the law, and claimed that, if anyone even entertained the idea of having an affair with someone that they weren’t married to, they were already an ‘adulterer’ in their hearts. So, when the woman was caught, red-handed, having an affair, it seemed an open and shut case. The woman had been caught in the act. The law required death – by ‘stoning’ – straightaway. Surely Jesus, by his own standards, would have to judge the woman guilty of ‘adultery’ and condemn her to death as an ‘adulterer’. (John 8.1-6)
When asked for his verdict Jesus said to the crowd of men around him, ‘Let those of you without sin cast the first stone at her.’ He then stooped and wrote something in the dust on the ground with his finger, leaving the men, baying for the woman’s blood, to make their own judgement. (John 8:7–8) The men eventually made their judgement. And left – one by one – ‘from the oldest to the youngest’. And the woman was left alone with Jesus. ‘Has no one condemned you?’ he asked. ‘No one, sir,’ she said. Then Jesus made his judgement. He said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Just don’t do it again.’ (John 8:9–11) Jesus encouraged people to make judgements – but only judgments tempered with mercy by ‘empathy’.
When the disciples asked how often they were required to show mercy to someone, Jesus said, ‘If your brother or sister sins, rebuke them, and if they repent, forgive them. If they sin against you seven times a day and seven times come back to you and say, “I repent,” forgive them.’ (Luke17:3-4) On another occasion he said to them, ‘Actually, make that, not seven times, but seventy times seven!’ (Matt.18:22)And when the disciples asked why they should be expected to forgive people ad infinitum, Jesus said to them: ‘if you forgive people when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive people their sins, your Heavenly Father will not forgive your sin’. (Matt. 6:14-15)
When we are confronted with HIV/AIDS, which can be transmitted by illicit sex and drug use, it is all too easy to judge ‘positive people’ without mercy, blame the victims, and condemn them to perdition. But James reminds us, it is unjust for us to expect to receive mercy, if we do not show mercy to others. He said: ‘judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.’ (James 2.13)
‘Blessed are the merciful,’ Jesus said, ’for they will be shown mercy’ as they show mercy. (Matt.5.7)