"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy" (Matthew 5:7).

So, what's it mean to be merciful, anyway?  Mercy happens when you see some one's suffering and you do something to alleviate it or end it.  Mercy doesn't happen because someone deserves it, but because someone decides to take action to help someone out who is suffering.

Mercy plays a role in a number of Jesus' stories.  The parable of the good Samaritan, for example, gives a glowing example of mercy when the man from another race, another religion stops to extend a helping hand to one who is down and almost out.  

Another story with mercy written all over it is Jesus' parable of the unforgiving debtor.  A debtor, forgiven the equivalent of millions of dollars in debt, withholds the same mercy to someone who owes him just a little bit of money.  Jesus ends the story by saying that the forgiven debtor who holds the small debt of his debtor is thrown into prison.  The point of the story seems to be that those who withhold mercy shouldn't be expecting it either.

Today, I'd just urge you to be merciful somehow to someone.  Being merciful doesn't mean that you'll help the whole world, but you will help someone.  The merciful person can't fix every one's problems, but they're on the lookout for opportunities to extend God's kindness to those in special need.

As a follow of Christ, I recognize today that I am the recipient of extravagant mercy from God.  I need to get with it and start looking for ways to show God's mercy to the people who come across my path who need it.  After all, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked" (Luke 12:48b).

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