God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy. (NLT)
At first glance, it seems as if Jesus is telling us that our being merciful to others causes God to be merciful to us. Not quite. We can never merit God’s mercy. Rather, if we are consistently and wilfully harshly judgemental to others, we show that we are strangers to God’s mercy. If God has been merciful to me, I will seek to be merciful to others.
Being merciful is not being soft on sin. Our merciful God invited Jesus to bear the guilt of all our sin so that he could display mercy to us rather than have us suffer ongoing estrangement from him. He doesn’t ignore our sin but chooses not to let it define our relationship with him. How would it be for us if God focussed simply on our failings?
And so, we are called to show mercy to others, not blind to their failings but choosing not to focus on them. If God has chosen not to be harshly judgemental to us, then we need to choose not to impose harsh judgementalism on others. If we are the sort who constantly look for faults and failings in others, we are not resembling the God who knows all about our own faults and failings but shows mercy nevertheless.
God’s ultimate word for us is mercy rather than judgement. The judgement is proper and real but has been dealt with on the cross of Jesus. As beneficiaries of that mercy, we who trust in Jesus need to have others be beneficiaries of our own real but imperfect mercy.