Jesus taught much in the Sermon on the Mount that is difficult to apply and sometimes hard to understand. If you haven’t lately, give it a read. You can find it in Matthew’s Gospel, chapters 5-7. One of the more poignant sections is the Beatitudes where Jesus teaches us how to experience heavenly blessings and genuine happiness. Matthew 5:7 reads, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” Jesus himself is the embodiment of mercy. He doesn’t give us what we deserve—judgment and immediate punishment. Rather, Jesus gives us grace and kindness.
I’m disappointed by what I perceive to be a lack of mercy among some believers in conversations and on social media the last several months. We exhibit mercy when we do not give people what they deserve, but show them grace or cut them slack. We exhibit mercy when we give people a chance. We exhibit mercy when the tone of our public and private conversations is salted with kindness and compassion. I’ve read and heard over the last several months people unmercifully criticize and slam presidential candidates, athletes, television personalities, and artists (Lady Gaga at the Superbowl halftime performance) as well as anyone who would speak kindly about anyone they deem wrong.
Do not read this as an affirmation of all of the above persons. We have both the right and responsibility to critique and speak the truth. But we also have the responsibility to manage the tone of our critique (speak the truth in love). When you respond in person or on social media, make sure you are merciful. Use the following questions to help frame your responses in mercy.
- Do I care more about being right than I care about the people I’m referring to or responding to?
- Does my tone exhibit compassion and mercy as well as accuracy and truth?
- Am I mindful that the person I’m critiquing is made in the image of God?
- Would Jesus say/post what I’m about to say/post?
- Is what I’m about to say/post/share full of truth and grace?
- Is what I’m about to say/post/share consistent with the truth of Scripture and the tone of mercy in Scripture?