Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.Matthew 5:7-9
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
On October 2, 2006, a nightmare unfolded in a small Amish town as an armed man barricaded himself in a one-room schoolhouse with ten girls. Eventually, he shot them all and killed five before he turned and took his own life. The Amish community’s response was astonishing. They not only expressed forgiveness for the shooter but also visited his widow and brought her meals, flowers, and hugs. They established a fund for his family and attended his funeral. His mother said, “love just emanated from them.” Their actions demonstrated mercy in a way that words could not.
Today’s passage is part of the eight verses known as “The Beatitudes.” They open the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), a sermon in which Jesus teaches us the guiding principles of the kingdom of God. Beatitude means blessing, which is God’s favor or goodwill. Jesus pleased God in every way, so someone made a play on words saying they are called “Be Attitudes” because we will Be like Jesus if we have these Attitudes.
Kingdom values require vulnerability which feels like weakness but actually requires strength and courage. We lay down the armor of self-protection and pick up a cross. Jesus modeled vulnerability when He took on a fragile human body and allowed himself to be arrested, beaten, and executed. As He died, He asked that his killers be forgiven.
Even in the face of the unthinkable, the Amish lived out the Beatitudes in today’s passage. They were merciful peacemakers. They showed compassion for those whom most would treat as enemies. Without denying their own grief, they recognized the shame and grief of the shooter’s family and took steps to relieve it. They built relationships rather than creating division. Their commitment to aligning themselves with God’s will is the definition of pure in heart.
It is hard to imagine immediately responding as they did. They were able to do so because it is a way of life for them. As one man put it, “Forgiveness is so ingrained in our heritage that it is part of our character.” I have found in my own life that willingness to obey Jesus’ teaching helps me understand it. I can’t quite describe it, but when I show mercy, especially when I don’t want to, I feel better able to receive God’s mercy. It helps me believe.
- Watch the shooter’s mother describe how mercy brought hope: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/mother-of-amish-school-shooter-shares-amazing-story-of-forgiveness/ . Who needs your mercy or compassion?
- Read Matthew 18:21-35. What do we need to be mindful of in order to be merciful?