“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgement without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgement.”
James 2: 12-13
James 2: 1-13
James now focuses on one of the key issues he covered in chapter 1, that of practical love towards others. He begins with a scene that we may well have witnessed ourselves in Church. A rich man is shown preferential treatment ahead of a poor man (vs. 1-5). The thought of behaviour like this may offend us but I would guess that we may all have been guilty of it at some point albeit in a more subtle form? Perhaps towards a person who holds a view we do not agree with, who speaks differently or who is of a different ethnicity? The point that James is teaching is that practical love shows no favouritism. Favouritism goes against the Gospel and it breaks God’s law (vs. 8-9). Consider the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37) and the Lord’s summary of the law (Mark 12: 28-31) if you doubt these assertions. When we act in this way we become judges motivated by hearts that cannot be trusted (vs. 4).
Those who are poor in the eyes of the world have been chosen by God to be rich in faith and so inherit His Kingdom (vs. 5-7). There are echoes of the Beatitudes in this discourse where the Lord tells us that the poor in spirit will inherit the Kingdom of God (Matthew 5: 1-12). Returning to a theme in chapter one and an earlier blog we see again in the light of the Kingdom rich and poor both need the saving Grace of Jesus Christ. All need His mercy; we all stand under God’s judgement.
Judgement seeks to pay a person their due. Mercy on the other hand sees the need in an individual and responds in gracious, undeserved kindness. James explains that judgement falls on those who break God’s law and show no mercy (vs. 9-11, 13). However he identifies the Law that gives freedom (vs. 12) where God’s grace mercifully meets the requirements of His divine judgement in the self-sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the repentance and faith of the believer. This is where and how Mercy triumphs over Judgement.
In the Beatitudes Jesus tells us that we will be blessed if we are merciful because we will be shown mercy (Matthew 5: 7). When we realise His love for us and the magnitude of His forgiveness we will not find it so easy to show favouritism or judgement towards others. Instead His mercy will flow out of our hearts meeting the needs of our brothers and sisters; this is the practical, self-sacrificial love that brings freedom.
To Ponder: Jesus tells us that those who have been forgiven little, love little (Luke 7: 47). Understanding God’s mercy towards us prevents us judging others and instead enables us to channel His mercy. How are these truths reflected in your life and relationships?
Pray: God of all mercy, your Son proclaimed good news to the poor, release to the captives, and freedom to the oppressed: anoint us with your Holy Spirit and set all your people free to praise you in Christ our Lord. Amen
Praise: Forgive our sins as we forgive with Allyss Haecker
Mercy is a song by Matthew West
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.