Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment (James 2:12-13)


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]

Previously in our study through the book of James, we have read about the way we fail to keep the Law when we violate a single portion of it. The severity of the infraction does not change the fact that by breaking a part of the Law, the entirety of the Law has been broken. The Law of the Old Testament (as well as the Old Testament in general) pointed to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and James has previously explained how we are no longer bound under the Law of the Old Testament. We have not been liberated from the Law and thrown into a state of anarchy, Jesus Christ fulfilled the Mosaic Law, so that we can be welcomed into the new covenant. This new covenant is not based on a strict adherence to statutes, the new covenant is based on love. God sent His only begotten Son because He “so loved the world”. Jesus Christ died for our sins, not because He deserved to be crucified, but because He loved us so much that He willingly laid His life down on the cross, refused to defend Himself, and refused to provide some kind of defense when He was brought in front of the authorities who sought to crucify Him. Jesus Christ is God, and Jesus did not need to come to earth, nor did He need to be crucified. Jesus Christ could have stayed in Heaven, He could have let us stay under the Law, and we would be to blame for the sin that we live in. However, God loves us, and He has mercy on us. Despite the fact that we are all sinners, that we all deserve to be punished for our sin, Jesus died for us, so that we are able to have eternal life through Him. Jesus Christ was without sin, and He suffered out of nothing but love for us.

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace might also reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. [Romans 5:18-21, ESV]

Considering that Jesus Christ paid the price for each one of us, we have an obligation to show love to others. Jesus forgave us before we were even alive, and He has already forgiven the generations to come. All that we need in order to have eternal life is to accept the gift of salvation that Jesus Christ offers to those who seek Him. When we fall short, the Lord is quick to forgive us, desiring only that we come to Him with a heart of repentance.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. [Psalm 51:17, ESV]

We are not judged under the Law any longer, we are judged under the law of love. There are 613 commandments in the Mosaic Law, but Jesus tells us that the most important commandment is that we love God, and that we love others as we love ourselves.

And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. [Matthew 22:35-40, ESV]

When we were judged under the Law, we were required to live under the Law. Therefore, if we are judged under the law of liberty, we are to live as those who are judged under the law of liberty. We have received mercy, grace, and love, despite us deserving punishment and death. God does not deny us His love, so who are we to deny love to others? Let us examine James 2:12-13, understanding that we are to show others love in all that we do.

So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty.

Our obligation to live as those to be judged under the law of liberty applies to more than our actions, it applies to the way we speak. Jesus tells us that out of the abundance of the heart, so the mouth speaks [Luke 6:45], so we must have our hearts set on Christ. When we love God with all our hearts, all our souls, and all our minds, He will help us love others as we love ourselves.

Just as one who falls short in keeping one part of the Law becomes a transgressor of the Law, one who fails to keep one part of the law of liberty becomes a transgressor of the law of liberty. We can only fulfill the entirety of the law of liberty if we love God first, and allow Him to help us love others. When we fall short (which we all do), we must return to God, ask Him to forgive us, and ask Him to purify our hearts.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. [Psalm 51:10, ESV]

Furthermore, we must hold God’s Word in our hearts, so that we do not sin against Him [Psalm 119:11]. In order to love God with all our souls, we must make the decision to walk by the Spirit, so that we can reap the fruit of the Spirit. We love the Lord with all our minds by having our minds focused on Him, on His Word, on His desires, and on His love for us.

When we love God with our hearts, He will give us new hearts. Our new hearts will be clean, and a right spirit will be renewed in each of us. We must also hold God’s Word in our hearts, so that we do not sin against Him. When we love God with all our souls, we walk by the Spirit, and the Holy Spirit produces in us the fruit of the Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against these things there is no low. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. [Galatians 5:22-23, ESV]

When we love God with all our minds, our minds become focused on Him, on His desires for us, on His Word, and on showing others the love that He shows us. We cannot love God with our hearts, but not our minds. We cannot love God with our souls, but not our hearts. We must love God with all our hearts, and with all our souls, and with all our minds. We cannot love God, but not love others as we love ourselves. The law of love is the foundation for our lives as Christians, and we must have love in every aspect of our lives.

For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

When I read James 2:13, I am reminded of one of my favorite parables that Jesus ever told. The parable is told in Matthew 18:21-35, and it goes something like this:

There is a king, and that king wants to “settle accounts” with his servants, meaning that the king wanted to collect the money that his servants owed him. He has a servant brought before him, and that servant owes the king 10,000 talents. For the sake of simplicity, let us replace the word “talent” with “dollar”. The servant owes the king a lot of money, and the king wants that money right now.

The servant tells the king that he does not have that kind of money, and that he cannot pay the king what he owes him. The king still wants his money, so he orders for the servant to be sold, for his wife to be sold, for his children to be sold, and for everything to be sold. The king has a right to the money that he is owed. The servant borrowed money, so it is his responsibility to pay back what he owes.

Upon hearing the news that he, his family, and their belongings would be sold, the servant falls to his knees and begins to beg the king for mercy. The servant begs the king to have patience with him, and that he would pay the king what he was owed. Upon hearing the servant’s plea for mercy, the king has a change of heart. The king shows pity for the servant, releases him, and even forgives the servant of his debt.

To put things in context, the amount that the servant owed the king was worth the equivalent of millions of dollars. The passage describes the servant as having owed the king 10,000 talents, which was no small amount. The king did not forgive the servant of $20 worth of debt, $50 worth of debt, or even $1,000 worth of debt, he forgave the servant for a debt that was in the millions of dollars. The servant was shown mercy that changed his life. Instead of his family and their possessions being sold, the servant received forgiveness for the entirety of his debt, meaning that he went home that day with the burden of his debt having been lifted off of his shoulders.

The servant was also owed money, but from another servant. The second servant owes the first servant a hundred denarii (the equivalent of a few thousand dollars). Having been forgiven for a debt that was far greater than the amount he was owed, one might expect that the first servant would show a similar type of mercy to the second servant, but that was not what happened.

Instead of showing mercy to the other servant, the first servant grabs the other servant, chokes him, and demands that he pays back what he owes. The second servant falls down and begins to beg the first servant, asking for some time to gather the money to pay back what he owes. The first servant refuses to show mercy to the servant who owes him money, and the servant who owes money is put in prison until he can pay his debt.

There were other servants who saw what the first servant had done to the servant who owed him money, and the other servants were greatly upset by what they had witnessed. The servants go to the king and tell him all that they have witnessed. The king is very upset by what he hears from his servants, so he orders that the servant that he forgave be brought back to him. The king says to the servant, “You wicked servant! I forgave you because I felt bad for you, but I heard that you showed no mercy to another servant who owed you money!”

The king orders that the servant whom he had previously forgiven be put in jail, until he can pay back the amount that he owes the king. Judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy.

Jesus ends His parable by saying, “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” [Matthew 18:35, ESV]

Mercy triumphs over judgment, and must show mercy to all. We must love others, we must forgive others, and we must encourage others to seek God. We have been forgiven for our sins, so we must forgive others for things that they do to us. We have no right to withhold the mercy that Christ showed us.

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