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!
I think a lot of people are vaguely aware this is in the Bible, but they totally forget it in their daily lives. We human beings have a nasty habit of setting ourselves up as the “righteous standard,” and everyone who doesn’t meet our criteria is inferior. In the process we totally overlook the many areas in which we ourselves fail to meet the genuinely righteous standard of Jesus Christ, and so don’t realize how much we ourselves are in need of the mercy of God. This can be particularly true for those who haven’t committed what society calls “major sins.” After all, everything we have ever done is justified! That is one of the devil’s favorite lies. We forget something else that James wrote just before this: “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2:10) Mercy is closely tied in with forgiveness. And one of the strictest things Jesus is recorded as saying applies here: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15) It is when we fail to recognize our own need for forgiveness and mercy that we fall most badly.
This is something with which I am all too familiar. Since I loved Jesus even as a child, I thought I was in good shape, not realizing that I was allowing pride to blind me to my own failures. It wasn’t until I was a married father that the Lord showed me a mirror, and I got just a glimpse of the blackness of my own soul. I was devastated, but it has given me an awareness of my own need for mercy and forgiveness, which has made it much easier to show mercy and forgive others. That’s not to say I do it perfectly! As a pastor I sometimes deal with people who don’t see how they can be forgiven, but I have to say they are much easier to work with than those who don’t see how they can forgive someone else. Such people are terribly bound! As this passage says, God’s law, that requires mercy and forgiveness, is indeed the law of freedom. Anything less is the bondage of sin.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for the incident just this past week when I blew up because of my own stresses and pride, and for the mercy that was shown me then. I continue to pray that we would all allow Your grace and mercy to flow through us freely, lifting each other up and defeating all the plans of the enemy, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!