I have recently been reading through Calvin’s Sermons on the Beatitudes, which was one of my Christmas presents last year. I’ve found much of the chapter on Meekness and Mercy to be germane to the last discussion on service. In fact, I’ve found the section to be so relevant that I had a hard time selecting which excerpt to include. Rather than waste time wrestling through my decision impairment, I’ve decided to indulge myself and just do a series of posts with excerpts from this section of the book.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst on on account of righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for mercy will be shown them.” -Matthew 5:5-7
“We said earlier that although we are exposed to misfortune, trouble, oppression, and abuse, we can be truly happy because God blesses our sufferings when we look to him. In this verse, the Lord Jesus Christ takes believers one step further, teaching that as well as being meek and patient when we are afflicted, we must be at one with others in their distress, and so touched with compassion for their suffering as to look for ways of helping them, as if their pain were ours. I say again, since God has brought us together in order to make of us one body, all members are necessarily one, and each individual must take his share of suffering, in order to relieve those who can bear no more. That is the truth we must grasp here….And because God has bound us all together, no one can turn away and live only for himself . There is no room here for the indifference which promises tranquility and the pleasures of a comfortable life: we must enlarge our affections as the law of love requires.
So when we see some who are sick or poor or destitute, and others who are in trouble and distress of body or mind, we should say, ‘This person belongs to the same body as I do.’ And then we should prove by our deeds that we are merciful. We can proclaim our pity for those who suffer time without number, but unless we actually assist them, our claims will be worthless. There are plenty of people who will say, ‘Oh dear! How terrible to be like that poor man!’ Yet they simply brush it all aside, making no attempt to help. Expressions of pity stir no one into action. In short, this world is full of mercy if words are to be believed; in reality it is all pretence. St James vigorously condemns this attitude in chapter 2 of his Epistle. It is the height of insolence to say, ‘Ah me, what a shame!’, when no one is willing to lift a finger or even utter a word in order to help the distressed. We must learn, therefore, first to be kind and compassionate toward those who suffer; and then to make diligent use of the opportunities which God affords.”