This sermon is part of the sermon series "Beatitudes". See series.
Prince Felix of Schwarzenberg entered the diplomatic service and was appointed foreign minister of Austria in November 1848. After the Hungarian revolt was suppressed in 1849, someone suggested to Schwarzenberg that it would be wise to show mercy towards the captured rebels. "Yes, indeed, a good idea," Scwarzenberg replied. "But first we will have a little hanging." His comment illustrates the problem we have with Jesus' words in Matthew 5:7: "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." As a purely theoretical concept, mercy sounds like a good idea. Even those who reject Jesus as Lord are impressed by these words. The problem comes when we find ourselves in situations where we are required to actually implement them. On those occasions we find we are more in sympathy with the sentiments of Prince Felix. Approving of mercy and actually showing mercy are two very different matters. One reason we struggle with this is because needing to show mercy presupposes that real debt is owed.
Mercy implies debt.
I don't have a problem with mercy if I am on the receiving end. It's when I am the one required to show mercy that I struggle, because the only kind of person to whom I can show mercy is one who doesn't deserve it. Jesus illustrated this principle in a parable found in Matthew 18:23-35. The parable tells the story of a king whose servant owed him an impossibly large sum. When the king called in the debt, the servant begged for patience and asked the king to give him time to repay the full amount. This desperate request was as impossible as the debt itself, because it would have taken several lifetimes to acquire the amount that was owed—about 165,000 years! The king, of course, knew the hopelessness ...
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