Focus: Showing mercy
James 2:12-13 (NKJV) So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
When most people see the word ‘liberty’, they think of a kind of freedom that has no requirements, or being able to do as they please. One of the interpretations from the original Greek for the word ‘liberty’, as it is used in James 2:12-13, suggests that true liberty is: living as we should—not as we please.
One reason why ‘The Golden Rule’ is repeated and modeled so many times in scripture, is because of the mercy of God. He deeply wants for us to understand the kind of condition He is looking for in our hearts. He wants you and me to have a heart like His—a heart that would behave the way His heart has always behaved toward you and me.
James 2:12-13 refers to the time when we will all stand before God and be judged according to the good and bad things we have done while we lived here. ‘Good and bad’ can apply to the things we did and didn’t do, as in showing or not showing mercy to people who we may have determined were not worthy.
According to this scripture, we will be shown mercy—if we have shown mercy to others. It’s very sobering to read the words, “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy.” Clearly, it is not okay with God, for us to harbor bitterness and judgment, instead of showing mercy.
Christ died for our sins to set us free—but God requires that we show the same kind of mercy He showed to us, when people fail us.
In our own strength, we may not be able to find the love or power to show mercy toward someone who damaged us in one way or another. We may know what God’s Word has to say about these matters, and still continue turning our ears from the truth. 1 Corinthians 13:3 says, “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love (love is merciful), is profits me nothing.”
If you are a person who can look back over all of the various relationships of your past with peace in your heart, knowing that you have shown mercy to each and every one of the people who let you down, and there is not a shred of bitterness left in you—well then, congratulations.
You can probably think of at least one—and maybe more people, still ‘out there somewhere’, who came into your life and looked like someone sent from God to fulfill an empty part of you. For a while, they did that, and it was wonderful…but over a period of time, things changed, and the person who gave so much in the beginning—ended up taking more than they ever gave, and you reached a point where you finally put your foot down and said, ‘No more’.
You thought you could be civil with them and just ‘move on’, but it didn’t turn out that way. At first there was a stilted awkwardness about the change between you, but at this point, you can’t be in the same room together. What about that? What is the heart of God saying?
You might be so ‘over it’, that you don’t think anything needs to be done. Time has taken its toll and other people have replaced this person’s spot in your life—and frankly, you don’t really miss them anymore, so why should you even have to go there?
A big reason to dig up ghosts of the past, and try to reconcile with them—is for your own benefit. You may not see any reason to revisit that person—or the pain, but when it comes down to whether you will one day be shown mercy by God—the whole thing takes on a different tone.
The human mind wants to always take the easy way out. It wants to just leave it alone and let it go. But this Bible passage makes it clear that a person who has shown no mercy—will not receive mercy. The Greek definition of the verb ‘show’, is not passive in any sense. It gives a long list of actions, as a way of explaining what it means to ‘show’. It implies that a person who shows mercy, is one who has actively done things to demonstrate it.
We so easily let ourselves off the hook when a relationship goes sour. We neatly tuck the thing away in a back corner of our mind and claim no responsibility whatsoever over the way things went—or how they stand, today. We should spend some time pondering what it really means to ‘show mercy’.
Declaration: I will find new strength by praying about and meditating on what it means to show mercy.
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