I thought we would consider mercy one more time, only from a different angle this time. As Christians, knowing we can “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy” (Hebrews 4:16) because God is “rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4) is nothing short of amazing. As we considered in our last lesson, the attitude we bring when we approach the throne, speaks volumes to our understanding of our need for mercy. I think all of us, if we were honest with ourselves, could speak the words of David found in Psalm 51:1-2, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” God’s mercy, so abundantly flowing in our lives, is not intended to stop with me, for if I have received it, God desires that I offer it as well.
For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown
no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
The letter of James, sometimes called the “proverbs” of the New Testament, provides for us some insight regarding God’s abundant gift of mercy. To understand what James is saying, we need to back up and see what was taking place. James writes, “My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality” (James 2:1). What does partiality mean? Consider the ETRV’s translation of the latter part of this verse, “So don’t think that some people are more important than other people.” During times of assembly, when the church would gather, they were distinguishing between “a man with gold rings, in fine apparel” from “a poor man with filthy clothes” (James 2:1). To the rich man they would say, “You sit here in a good place” while telling the poor man “You stand there or sit here at my footstool” (James 2:3). So hideous is this behavior that we read, “…have you not…become judges with evil thoughts” (James 2:4)? Such partiality was shown, even though the rich were causing trouble for the church (James 2:5-7).
Although in Christ, James speaks of the old law as the “royal law,” and that even under it, such partiality is forbidden. If you break one commandment, it is as though you’ve broken them all. He exhorts them, “So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty” (James 2:12). The overwhelming joy of the gospel, which saved sinful man from judgment by bestowing upon him mercy, is exactly what God yearns for us to do when we are faced with opportunities to love those still in the world. Mercy triumphs over judgment every time!
One final thought. Jesus, in the sermon on the mount, the beatitudes, shares this very powerful thought about mercy, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7). May the mercy we so graciously receive through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ flow through us to those around us.