Yesterday, we were challenged to view the royal law of God as a universal law that we should wish to obey, must obey and can obey through the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. With the Holy Spirit’s power, we can view God’s law as one that brings freedom as opposed to bondage. We have the freedom to demonstrate the character of God in our lives.
James ends this passage by sharing with his reader that they should act (and speak) as one who is going to be judged by the law… “because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgement.”
James’ comments about judgment without mercy can be somewhat intimidating because we all fail over and over again. As much as we want to live a life of complete obedience, we are going to fall short of perfection. While we have to admit that we disobey, we also have to admit that we did NOT HAVE TO DISOBEY. Paul shared the same personal frustration: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do-this I keep on doing.” Romans 7:15-19
James is addressing what everyone who knows of the glory and holiness of God should realize…we need God’s mercy because we are NOT going to able to keep every aspect of the law. We are going to be lawbreakers. James is showing his reader how they can have the assurance they will receive the mercy of God – “judgment will not be shown to those who have not shown mercy to others!”
Scripture confirms that proposition throughout the new testament. Here are just a few examples: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)
The words of Christ: “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything. The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.” (Matthew 18:23 forward) We know that when the master heard about this servant who was not willing to forgive a small debt after he had been forgiven an enormous one, the master had the “WICKED” servant turned over to the jailers to be imprisoned AND TORTURED until he could pay back all he owed.”
Luke also shared Christ’s attitude about how important it is to show mercy: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (6:36)
James is not suggestion that showing mercy has the ability to “purchase” mercy from God. We can never make ourselves worthy of God’s mercy. Our mercy demonstrates “evidential value” meaning it is a characteristic followers of Christ should automatically demonstrate as a result of receiving God’s mercy. If we are not merciful, we cannot expect to receive the mercy God offers.
James’ conclusion: those who wish to obtain mercy, must show mercy because we are all in need of mercy. We should also show it without demonstrating favoritism. Remember, that is how he began this chapter.
James then ends these verses with what should be an incredibly encouraging statement: Mercy triumphs over judgment.
We should all fall under the umbrella of receiving judgment, because we all fall short of the glory of God. Justice demands that we should receive condemnation for our sins. We “plead” for mercy when we ask God to forgive us of our sins, which results in salvation. James is saying that MERCY PREVAILS OVER JUDGMENT.
So how do we escape the justice we deserve, just by being merciful? NO! Our mercy was obtained by Jesus Christ on the cross. The claims justice has on each of us was fully satisfied through that sacrifice. God’s mercy to us triumphed because it results in a complete forgiveness of our sins and FULL SALVATION. So even when we stand before God on judgment day, His mercy will prevail. WHAT AN ENCOURAGING THOUGHT!
So, what right do we have to become judges ourselves and what right to we have to withhold mercy from others?
That is a question each of us who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ should ask ourselves! Hopefully, the answer is that we will choose to demonstrate the same level of mercy we have received from our Father in heaven.