James 2:12-13 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!
Christian living isn’t simple. On the one hand we are commanded to be holy (1 Peter 1:16) and perfect. (Matthew 5:48) On the other hand, we are reminded that all have sinned, (Romans 3:23) and if we say we have not, the truth isn’t in us. (1 John 1:8) We are to be discerning (Philippians 1:10) but not judgmental. (Matthew 7:1) Frankly, none of us is smart enough to keep it all straight. The more we draw close to God, the more we are aware that we are in total need of His grace and mercy. That’s why Jesus was so strict on the point of forgiving. (Matthew 6:14-15) As we condemn others’ failures, we are effectively condemning ourselves. It’s not at all that we aren’t to call sin, sin. Far too many churches are going in that direction these days, caving to the demands of those who are in open rebellion against God. It has long been a cliché, but even so, we are to hate the sin and love the sinner – even when the sinner is us! That’s what this passage is talking about. In verse 10 of this same chapter it states clearly that breaking God’s law at any point makes us a lawbreaker, period. It has been said that American law has become so convoluted that just about anybody could be shown to be breaking at least one law at any given point. That’s probably true for other countries as well. God’s law isn’t arbitrary the way so many human laws are, but it is far more complete, and by it, we are indeed all guilty. That is why we are saved by grace through faith, (Ephesians 2:8-9) and not by keeping the law. Martin Luther despised this letter of James, because from the very next verse after this passage it talks about the importance of demonstrating our faith through living it out, when Luther had just rediscovered the principle of justification by faith. Luther overlooked this passage! Luther himself was a deeply flawed individual, as we all are. That’s why we must cling to Christ, and extend to others the grace and mercy that have been shown to us.
This certainly applies to me! At this point in my life people tend to think I’ve got it all together, but I am constantly reminded of sins of omission – things I have failed to do – as well as occasional sins of commission – things I know I shouldn’t do. I too am totally in debt to the grace and mercy of God. Some of the actions of people I care about grieve me deeply, but I must remember that God is grieved even more. I am to love them first and foremost, without failing to speak the truth to them as God gives opportunities. If I descend into judgmentalism I have handed the devil a victory, over me as well as over the other person. I am to forgive without excusing, love without condoning. That’s more than I can do on my own! Just this morning I have been reminded of numerous failures on my part, and have been tempted to condemn others along the way. I’ve got to operate in the truth of this passage, toward myself and toward others.
Father, thank You for Your grace and mercy! Thank You also for helping me be aware of my need for them. Help me keep growing, keep drawing closer to You, so that I may indeed be transformed into the likeness of Christ Jesus my Lord, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!