I was amazed as I read William Barclay’s The Gospel of Matthew, Vol One to find confirmation of a life experience of mine so clearly taught by Jesus, but so missed by people, even Christians who read the Bible faithfully. I, personally, never knew what Jesus was saying when he said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy” Matthew 5:7.
I always thought this was one of the beatitude statements that was easy to understand…..If I show mercy to others, (compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm. Oxford Dictionary), and God will show mercy to me. That is not always easy, but it is something we can all do. It also seems like a theme of Jesus, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” Luke 6:31. “Forgive, and you will be forgiven” Luke 6:37b.
However, this simple statement about mercy says much more than one reads on the surface; it has a much more powerful meaning. As I learned today, the Hebrew word for “mercy” is “chesedh” which does not mean just compassion for another, or the willingness to forgive someone who has harmed you, but it means, as Barclay puts it, “to get right inside other people until we can see things with their eyes, think things with their minds, and feel things with their feelings.” What Jesus is telling us is that we need to look at them through God’s eyes so we can know what pain, hurt, suffering, of misguided moments in their lives caused them to do, say, or act the way they do.
“Impossible!” you might say. “Not so,” is my answer. Difficult at times, but not impossible if we are willing to let go and allow ourselves to begin to see people through God’s eyes. God knows what is behind the hurt, the pain, the thoughts of each person.
I know this for certain, because it has been my own, personal, experience. I worked in a small office with 5 other women and a supervisor. The supervisor liked to play mind games with her staff. She even admitted to another supervisor, in my presence, that she stayed awake at night thinking about how she would move the pawns around on the game board the next day. She would always use us as her protection when things in our department did not go right. Even if it was her decision that caused the problem, one of us would be blamed.
Oh, how I began to hate her. It wasn’t just because of how she treated me, but I could see how she was hurting those I worked with as well, and it tore me apart inside. One day in my prayer time, God told me to pray for her. “Pray for her God,” I immediately thought, “I can’t pray for her. I can’t stand her.” “Pray,” was God’s only reply. I must confess, I didn’t, but God did not relent. Everyday I heard the same words from God. Finally, one day, I said, “Ok God, I will.” But all I could get out that day was, “Dear God, Louise.” That was it. That was all I could get out, my hatred was so strong. The next day I tried again, and the next day, and the next. Each day it got a bit easier, and I even got to praying a whole sentence. I continued each day, struggling with what to pray.
An amazing thing happened. I began to see Louise through different eyes. I began to hear her hurt and pain as she’d briefly speak of something that had happened to her. All the things she had said and done, even her placing the blame on us for her failures, began to be bearable as I began to understand her more and more. It did not make what she did right, fair, or justifiable, but it did make it understandable, and that, in itself, took away my anger and hatred. Louise did not change, but I did, and it was a change experience that has made a tremendous difference in my life. For the first time, God allowed me to see someone not through my own eyes, but his. I began to love Louise even in all her ugliness. I began to pray for her because I wanted to, not because God told me to.
At some point in the last year, I began to pray for God to allow me to see all people through His eyes, even total strangers. Little by little, as I kept up this prayer, God began to open my eyes. Now I know my godly vision is not fully clear yet. It is still a bit blurry. But I do know that most little thoughts, the quick judgements, I used to have about people who I meet for the first time, or those I just see as I am out shopping, or the guy that passes me on the berm during rush hour traffic, are gone.
I do not consider myself especially judgmental, but my eyes were opened when I realized how often I did make quick little judgments about others.
With time, as I continue to ask God to open my eyes to see each person as he does, I will be able to see them as the beautiful souls that God loves, just like Louise, and I will be able to see feel their hurt, their insecurity, and know their need. Then I will be in the best position to truly be merciful.
“Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” (Matthew 18:33)