Testing Judgment and Mercy

“So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:12-13).  

What Do You Think?

On separate occasions, I asked two 6th graders, “What would you say to a scruffy looking man sitting on a sidewalk in tattered clothes?” One said, “Get a job!!” The other said, “Can I help you?” How quick we are to judge by outward appearances. Our judgments are shallow because we can’t know or see into the heart and soul of another person. “Have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:4). On the one hand, that scruffy looking man may not be poor at all. But my prejudices about his appearance have led me to think he is. Or maybe he really is poor and I do try to help him. I perform a wonderful act of self-sacrifice for his benefit but in my heart I’m really doing it for self-promotion, to make myself look spiritual. I may be doing the right thing but with no love. Or just maybe I’m doing it for the glory of God alone. It is impossible for any of us to know the heart condition or motives of another by the outward appearances.

Judging Perfectly

Only someone who has complete knowledge can exact perfect judgment and through it offer pure justice. And there is only one who is like this: He is the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth, Creator of you and me, and all things. He rules in holiness and love, justice and mercy. He is the only one who can judge righteously because He is God, our omniscient sovereign. He sees my heart and knows my every motive. Who can stand before Him? “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it” (James 2:10).

God ordained a message to be delivered to the world: the message of life and death for every person in every generation. It is the message of God’s holiness, our sin, and His mercy poured out for us in Jesus Christ. It is the life-giving message that comes not in smooth or clever words, but in the power of the Holy Spirit who is given to convict us of the truth that our sin has brought us under God’s righteous judgment. To be sure of these truths is evidence of His grace and mercy at work in us.

Mercy in Christ Jesus

God’s judgment of us, all His wrath against our sin and guilt, was poured out on Jesus Christ on the cross. You and I richly deserve God’s judgment, but He gives us mercy. In Christ, mercy and righteousness have kissed. “He Himself bore our sins on the tree that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24). Now we are made whole in Him. He has set us free to love and obey Him from a pure heart and with sincere faith. If we show others this same mercy we have received in Jesus, then it is evidence we truly belong to Him. We should not forget, however, that it is a sanctifying work that calls for our resolve to war against our flesh. (Logic tells us that if there’s a triumph, there must have been a battle.) But through Christ’s victory and his Word, we are equipped for the fight.

Remember when the sick, lame, and demon possessed were brought to Jesus? He healed them all (Matthew 8:16). The recognition of His authority and the cry for mercy was enough. The weak came to Him and He received them and healed them, even knowing their hearts were full of sin. His mercy triumphed over judgment then and continues now to everyone who comes to Him by faith. As Christ’s beloved who serve under the law of liberty we can rejoice to show mercy! It is a mark of true faith in Him.

And now, Lord, we pray make us more like You, humble and gentle of heart. May mercy triumph over evil thoughts of judgment in us, and may your love flow freely and generously from our lives to others for your sake (James 2:13).

Note: Over the past few weeks, Pastor Jason has been preaching a series on the book of James. If you have missed his messages, you can find them at http://redeemerbiblechurch.com/resources/series/living_faith