We know immediately when someone belongs to a particular family. Each family member shares certain physical qualities in common. It could be their hair color, or their height or their facial structure. There are a number of things that family members share. This is why we have a concept of ‘family resemblance.’
An outsider can readily identify that we are part of a certain family by seeing the qualities that we share. For example, if you met my family, you would readily see that I am a Preciado. I share various physical qualities with my family. You could look at those qualities and easily see that I belong to that family.
Now, I do not earn or merit entrance into the Preciado family because I share these qualities with them. In other words, the family resemblance does not gain me a spot in the family. Instead, it is because I belong to that family that I have the family resemblance. It is because I am securely a member of the family that I manifest these qualities. I think that we all readily understand this idea when it comes to family resemblances.
The same thing is true when it comes to membership in the Kingdom of God. This beatitude is sometimes misunderstood to be teaching that we earn God’s mercy by acting mercifully. This is not what Jesus is saying. Instead, he is saying that members of God’s kingdom manifest the quality of showing mercy. This quality does not get us into the Kingdom of God, but we possess this quality because we already are in the Kingdom of God. Showing mercy is the natural result of having faith in Jesus.
Christians will, in fact must, demonstrate mercifulness in their lives. We will never demonstrate perfection in this, but we will demonstrate some level of mercy. If we are without mercy, then we do not belong to the Kingdom. Jesus is not saying that if we do not have perfect mercy and perfect forgiveness, we are not in the Kingdom. No, he knows very well that believers have a sinful nature and we struggle to forgive and to be merciful.
What exactly is mercy? There are five things to consider:
First, mercy is not simply feeling compassion.
Second, mercy exists when something is done to alleviate distress.
Third, mercy is active goodwill.
Fourth, mercy describes one who forgives and pardons another who is in the wrong.
Fifth, the merciful person remembers his own sin and God’s mercy to him. He understands the weakness of others and forgives.