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!
But what is this mercy? I believe that our generation has no concept of what this word means.
When we use the word mercy it’s usually when we’ve done something wrong. We want to be shown leniency, so we say, “Please have mercy on me.” This is not the Biblical concept of mercy.
It’s interesting to note that two times were recorded in the Gospels where Jesus made the same statement to the Pharisees. In both cases they were condemning Him for what He was doing. He did things like eating with “sinners.” The Pharisees were thinking, “How can the power of God work in you if you do that?”
Jesus had a stern rebuke for them.
“If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.”
This statement was directed at the Pharisees, But I have to admit that when I began studying about mercy I had no idea what He meant by it. I had always quoted the verse “to obey is better than sacrifice.” This view of the mercy of God was new to me.
If you boil it all down to a simple phrase, here’s what I see in Scripture. Mercy is the favor God shows to His sons and daughters. For a detailed teaching on the mercy of God, click here.
This is why James talks about the fact that mercy triumphs over judgment. God would much rather reward your faithfulness than discipline you. It’s the same with sacrifice in the above verse. The Lord would rather reward your obedience than forgive your sin – even though His forgiveness is unlimited.
This knowledge of the mercy of God should color all we do in our relationships with other believers. If God wants to show us His favor, then we should have that same attitude toward fellow Christians.
James is clear on how we’re to do this. First of all, we’re to speak to each other in the understanding that the one we’re speaking to is under God’s favor. Why would I treat someone badly, that God loves and favors?
To do that would be to invite God’s discipline. It’s like that in any family. When someone is mean to their sibling, they’ll definitely get a time-out.
The second part has to do with our actions. Sometimes they speak more loudly than our words. How do we treat each other?
When we refuse to participate with fellow believers, it’s a sign that we don’t favor someone that God loves and wants to work with.
An understanding of God’s mercy is what should drive us forward. We need to let it work in us to live and act as Jesus did. Then we’ll see the results of God’s work in us and in those around us.
Question: How have you seen God’s mercy operate in your life?
© Nick Zaccardi 2017