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Blessed are the Merciful…

Continuing with our look at Spiritual Discipleship, J. Oswald Sanders discusses the Beatitudes in the chapter, The Ideal Disciple.

He begins the chapter with the statement,

The Old Covenant of law could pronounce only a curse on those who failed to fulfill its demands. The New Covenant, which was sealed with Christ’s blood, does not reduce the law’s demands but imparts the desire and the dynamic to fulfill them. The “thou shalt, thou shalt not” of the Old is replace by the “I will, I will” of the New. (p. 11)

What a great way to put it. Rather than being a list of rules to follow, the New Testament is an inspiration to follow the example of Jesus Christ.

Sanders goes on to outline the Beatitudes into eight conditions of life. The first four are passive personal qualities: spiritual inadequacy, spiritual contrition, spiritual humility, and spiritual aspiration. The next four are active social qualities: compassionate in spirit, pure in heart, conciliatory in spirit, and unswerving in loyalty.

The quality that strikes a chord with me is compassionate in spirit. Sanders writes, “It is possible to have a passion for righteousness and yet lack compassion and mercy for those who have failed to attain it” (p. 15). He goes on to write, “To become mercy, [pity] must graduate from mere emotion to compassionate action.” In other words, to be merciful, we must be willing to do more than just feel pity; we must be willing to do something. More than that, we must be willing to encourage those who have fallen into sin to turn away from sin and turn to Christ. Perhaps if we were less inclined to judge, and more inclined to show mercy we would see more come to know Christ. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” Matthew 5:7 (English Standard Version).

Sanders, J. O. (1990). Spiritual discipleship: Principles of following Christ for every believer. Chicago: The Moody Bible Institute.

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