Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment
“But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 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 2:9-13
Most of us aren’t murderers or thieves or adulterers. Those sins are the “worst” of sins, the extra-double-plus bad ones. Those are the sins that clearly break God’s law. We don’t do those things. (I mean, unless you count bitterness, coveting, lust, or pornography. Moving on quickly, though.)
Yet we’re all law-breakers in one overarching way: we lack love. Wait, what? Yes, a lack of love and a lack of mercy not only break God’s law, but this is where all law breaking comes from.
How does a lack of mercy reveal a lack of love?
James brings this to our attention by describing favoritism in the church. A wealthy person receives honor while a poor person is ignored and pushed to the fringes. The richly attired person is moved front and center while the shabby person is asked to sit in the back. In our context today, this kind of attitude and behavior dons other garments—racial favoritism, gender favoritism, generational favoritism, and cultural favoritism.
We are all inclined to favor one kind of person over another. And in so doing, we fail to love as Christ loved.
We think of “love your neighbor as yourself” as the Golden Rule. That’s a cute, shiny phrase, but it undersells what Jesus calls one of the two greatest commandments. This must mean love is deeper and broader than we normally think of it—more active and big and robust and committed, not simply romantic or feely. Love must be an attitude and a perspective, even a lifestyle. It must be a shaping, defining force.
When we lack love, we judge, whether or not we are in any position to do so. We judge others more harshly than we would like to be judged and for the very things we fail at daily. We forget we will be held to the very standard by which we judge others. We are blinded by the log in our own eye while we make much of the sawdust in someone else’s.
We are all law-breakers because we lack love. For this reason, we deserve judgment and we need mercy. We need it foremost from Jesus, and we have it.
What areas of life do you tend to be more judgmental about? (politics, religion, morals, etc.)
Why do we tend to be judgmental in certain areas of life and not others?
Christ’s mercy has already triumphed over judgment. But has it done so in our lives? Do we share that mercy forward and do we receive it from others? Are we shaped by it or by the desire to judge others in order to position ourselves as something we are not?