Mercy, Lord, Mercy!

“So whatever you speak, or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law of love, the law that set you free. For there will be no mercy for you if you have not been merciful to others. But if you have been merciful, then God’s mercy toward you will win out over his judgment against you.” -James 2:12-13

 

I LOVE the book of James.  It is full of love. Every command, every warning, every teaching, is given in love. James had an obvious message of correction for half-hearted believers. The first several chapters of James focus on being genuine- genuine religion, genuine faith, genuine wisdom, etc. His warnings and instruction focused on the heart of the believer; the true witness and faith that is expressed through our actions. He even warns in Chapter 3, “Not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged by God with greater strictness”. He had a real, genuine fear of God- that honor and respect of God’s sovereignty that so many of us lack today.

 

One of the things James focuses on is the way we treat others. Not just in good works of kindness, but in our mercy toward others. The definition of mercy is “compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one’s power; compassion, pity, or benevolence: Have mercy on the poor sinner.” (Dictionary.com)

 

The above scripture says, “…there will be no mercy for you if you have not been merciful to others. But if you have been merciful, then God’s mercy toward you will win out over his judgment against you.”  Here James is saying that God will basically treat us the way we treat others. If we choose not to have mercy- (compassion toward an offender, enemy, or anyone we may have power over) then God will not show us mercy. There’s a story in Matthew 18 about a rich king and his servant. The servant owed the king a lot of money- more than he could ever pay back in his lifetime. He begged the king for mercy, and asked that the debt be cancelled. The king had mercy on him, and cancelled the servants’ debt. The same day, the servant went out to collect the debts owed to him. He threatened anyone who could not pay. Someone witnessed this, and went to the king and told him what had happened. The king approached his servant and said, “’You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ (Verses 32 and 33) The king then puts the servant into jail, until he could pay back all of his debt (which was never because he owed more than anyone could possibly make in their lifetime!). Jesus goes on to say in verse 35, “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

 

Jesus’ taught that we should treat others the same way we expect to be treated. In Luke 6:31-41 Jesus not only teaches the “golden rule’, he goes on to show us that we are to give willingly and generously to others without expecting anything in return. In essence saying, “do more unto others than they would do to you”! “And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”

 

James taught that true faith is evident in our actions. He believed that our behavior was a reflection of our beliefs. And he echoed the teachings of Jesus and Paul by saying that God will judge us according to what is in our hearts. “If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are just fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles and refuse to let the world corrupt us.”- James 1: 26-27

 

If you desire mercy from God, then you must show mercy to others. And the mercy you give should not be an effort to gain mercy- it must be done from a pure, meek heart, not expecting anything in return.

 

“Be merciful even as your Father is merciful”.

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