“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.”
(James 2:12-13 NIV)
James wraps up his discourse on impartiality with an appeal to live and act with mercy toward others.
James reminds us that God will judge us according to how we treat others.
So what measure does God use to judge us? His Law – as recorded in Scriptures.
And what does God’s Law give? James says it gives freedom. Remember that God is no respecter of persons – He treats everyone fairly and justly.
Even the Pharisees recognized Jesus’ impartiality (Matthew 22:15-17). They said of Jesus, “You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are.” (v. 16).
God’s Law breaks down barriers and provides freedom in Christ. Jesus treats the late night “Wal-Mart people” everyone ridicules on social media with the same love and respect as the so-called “beautiful people” that shop in Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive.
This shows God’s character of impartiality, His ability to both love and judge equally, regardless of status, economics, power, education, or any other divisive means we use to make ourselves look better than our neighbors.
James exhorts us, he strongly urges us to show mercy to others, for our willingness to show mercy indicates the status of our hearts. James is reminding us to show mercy to others, just as God, through Christ, has shown mercy to us. James says that is how we pass the test of impartiality. If we say we are followers of Christ, then our actions need to reflect Christ’s character in how we treat others.
Matthew understood this principle of showing mercy to others, because he had lived on the wrong side of mercy for a long time. Before coming to Christ and learning His ways, Matthew was a Jewish person who sold out as a tax collector for the Roman government, collecting taxes from his fellow Jews. Listen to Matthew’s record of Jesus’ teaching:
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)
“ But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” ” (Matthew 9:13)
“If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.” (Matthew 12:7)
Jesus is quoting from Micah 6:6-8. Listen to Micah’s summary:
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.”
(Micah 6:8 NIV)
James also ends with a wonderful statement: “Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
I know I have said the same thing many different ways today. That is not to beat myself up, or to condemn others. It is simply to remember how important impartiality is to God, and how I need to live my life with a tender and humble heart before God.
It’s easy to develop a jaded attitude toward others when others hurts us (either knowingly or unknowingly). It’s also easy to focus all our attention on ourselves, to live selfishly and make life all about us – our wants, our needs, our hurts, everything about our life, and complete ignorance about the lives of others around us.
Unfortunately, our ignorance of and apathy toward others’ needs and hurts creates the same environment of judgment, because we are basically saying, “my needs are more important than whatever issue you may be having.”.
Father, replace our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh. Help us to be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, You forgave us. Help us to love others with the same impartiality that You love us. We come humbly to the foot of the cross, where the ground is level, where we are all equal before You, sinners saved by Your grace and kept by Your mercy. Amen.