“Speak and act as those who are to be judged by the law of freedom. For judment is without mercy to the one who has not shown mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”James 2:13-13 (CSB)
The last line in these two verses really struck me. “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” This has not always been my experience in dealing with other Christians.
First, I have to admit that I can be like the Pharisee loudly proclaiming in the Temple how much better he is than the tax collector next to him (see Luke 18:9-14). While I may not say it out loud, there are times when I feel way more judgemental than merciful to the people around me. The irony in Jesus’ parable is that while reading the Pharisee’s declaration “Thank God I’m not like this tax collector” I can think, “Thank God I’m not like that Pharisee.”
Every day I need to seek God to do a new work in my heart to make me ready to be an agent of mercy and grace; it does not come naturally to me. And in my experience, it does not appear to come naturally to others.
I have been the victim of church situations where a person or group has taken a hard line on things in which Scripture is not clear. The stand can be on really silly things; the controversy over long hair on men in the ’60s and ’70s comes to mind.
The hard stand can be on minor points of doctrine that bring more division than comfort. I’m thinking now of a denomination with which I was involved that has a very narrow view of end times events based on a particular understanding of a few verses in the Bible. This belief became the test of orthodoxy among that group and anyone who didn’t have the “correct” understanding was looked at as suspect. Their sense of superiority was rooted in how smart they were to figure out all the clues like spiritual Hercule Poirots.
Never mind that Scripture is not clear on these things. Never mind that good, solid, Bible scholars have had other interpretations. Never mind that Jesus himself gave us hints about what the end would look like but then told us that no man knows when He is returning and we shouldn’t spend a lot of time worrying about it.
My whole point in this is that every believer needs to submit his inner Pharisee to the scrutiny and guidance of the Holy Spirit and daily ask for the grace to offer mercy instead of judgment to the people around us. Even now, I have to struggle with feeling superior to those in that denomination who got stuck on basing their identity on such a silly thing as understanding the end times.
We all fail to live up to the standard we have set for ourselves. We are all inconsistent in having our actions match what we claim to believe.
We need to offer grace and mercy to ourselves and to others.
We are forgiven by God and need to readily forgive those around us.