Study Guide: The Merciful and The Pure In Heart

Sunday November 4, 2012 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

As we continue our series on the beatitudes, we find an increasing understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. In this sermon, Greg talks about mercy and being pure in heart. He also shows how God doesn’t reward us for being merciful and being pure in heart, but there are natural, good consequences in doing these things.

Extended Summary:

Mercy is empathizing with someone in need and showing them compassion. It is often used in the context of someone who is guilty and is released from the judgment of their guiltiness. While this mercy is defined in a legal system, it is a useful starting point to talking about mercy. Mercy extends far beyond the legal system, and when Jesus calls us to mercy, he is asking for more than just a legal mercy.

God first showed mercy to us. He empathized with our sinful nature by taking the burden and guiltiness of our sin on the cross. Mercy begins with empathy. Empathy, in the Greek, means going into suffering. It is literally stepping into someone’s suffering. Jesus was God stepping into our suffering. He became human, and even more so, accepted the punishment of our sin on the cross. God fully empathized with humanity, and even though he can see our sinfulness, he gave us mercy.

God then withholds the condemnation we deserve and instead showers us with blessings. God calls us to extend this mercy towards everyone else. He wants his Kingdom full of merciful people. Merciful people do not judge others for their sin, nor do they hold it against them. Whenever we are wronged by people, we are called to forgive and grant mercy.

God also wants people that are pure in heart. Pure in heart means a childlike innocence and simplicity. Aristotle and Plato said that knowledge presupposes likeness. To know something, you must have a nature like it. A dog can’t understand why we read books, but it can understand our hunger. We can only know God to the extent that we are like him. If we don’t act like him, then we don’t grow in our knowledge of him. If we don’t grow in our knowledge of him, we don’t see God.

Being pure in heart and merciful will not earn us some sort of external reward from God. It’s not like eating vegetables and getting dessert afterwards. Giving mercy and being pure in heart have rewards that are inherent in the behavior. God is not in heaven waiting to zap people for not being merciful or pure in heart. He will still show himself to the non-pure in heart. But these behaviors bring us to a better knowledge of God when we live them out. When you are merciful, it is easier to understand God’s mercy and easier to give more mercy.

While this process will never be complete in our lives, it will one day be made complete. We won’t become perfect in this world. We won’t find the magic formula to live a sin free life. But one day it will be made complete. However, we should still struggle every day to be like Jesus. With this cross we might bear every day, we should remain merciful and seek after God with a pure heart.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What additional questions and comments did you have about the sermon and supporting texts?
  2. Mercy is difficult because it requires us to step into another person’s shoes. What have been some difficult situations in your past that asked for mercy? How did you respond?
  3. How far should we go in extending mercy to others when it’s a person that is harming us? What biblical examples of mercy can help guide us in answering this question?
  4. How do we balance mercy and justice when it comes to issues like sex trafficking or wars?
  5. In what areas of your life do you feel out of alignment with God? How can you seek to increase being pure in heart in those areas?