“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (Mt 5:7)
When Connie and I visited Egypt for our 30th anniversary in 2011, the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East were just beginning. Mass cancellations by tourists left Connie and I very noticeable as one of the few westerners walking around Cairo. We felt a bit uneasy upon arrival but ventured out of the hotel anyway. As we walked the streets, many of the Egyptians said, “Welcome to Egypt!” They wanted us to feel safe, even watched out for.
On that trip, in one of our conversations with a taxi driver, we heard a remarkable story of mercy. During the intensity of what the Egyptians call the January 25 Revolution, a group of Christians was gathered in Tahrir Square in the middle of Cairo and was concerned enough to pray, even though the environment was unstable. A group of equally concerned Muslims said to them, “We will stand around you in a circle to protect you while you pray.” The Christians accepted and had their time of prayer.
After the Christian group prayed, they said to the Muslims guarding them, “We will return the favor.” So the Muslims gathered in the middle while the Christians stood around them in a circle to watch over them during their prayers.
I love this story! The Muslims and Christians were merciful to each other and both received mercy from one another, just as Jesus said.
Mercy has several components.
To be merciful you need to have power. In the story above, each group actually had power to protect the other. Merciful means your decision to be compassionate (or forgiving) betters at least one other person or group. It usually betters the situation, but not necessarily the person’s character. The merciful one receives satisfaction from the giving of mercy, not from the reaction of the one to whom it is given.
Even though the groups above received mercy well, not everyone does. Some are too proud, others don’t see the point, and still others may be totally unaware. The blessing for the merciful one(s) is in the giving away and the effect on the other party is for them and God to work out.
The merciful one is not responsible for the outcome. But Jesus does tell us as His followers to initiate mercy when we have the power to do so.
By the way, it was a great anniversary, and our children and grandchildren joined us the second week in Cairo, the Sinai Peninsula, and the Coptic Retreat Center at Anafora. It was a delightful trip, and a merciful one.
Next week is about being pure in heart. It’s not what people see that matters as much as what God sees.
Til then, Dan