So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty.
For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy.
Mercy triumphs over judgment.
James 2:12-13 ESV
God is a God of mercy. The truth of this headline is found in this passage, but in a backdoor kind of way. I didn’t realize it at first, but once I did, I decided to stay here anyway. Why? Because of the importance of God’s mercy an the way He wants His people to live it out. This section in James 2:1-13 spells it out quite clearly.
It is talking about a problem found in the church back in James’ day and one we have today as well. It is one of partiality. Some people are treated more favorably than others. Often it is based on their apparent financial state. Those who visit our churches who are obviously in dire straits, can often be put in places where they won’t be seen as much. We try to be subtle about it, but whatever our areas of favoritism, it tends to come across. It may be more along the lines of age rather than wealth, but wherever our areas lie, God’s Word, through James, is making it very clear, that we are not living in a way that represents God. He is merciful.
Sadly, many of our churches and people are so affluent, that a person of low means immediately feels uncomfortable when they arrive, I have noticed in the 10 years since we have attended our church that the “dress code” has definitely toned down considerably. Not everyone has done it for this reasons mentioned in James, but some have. Sunday morning is no longer a fashion show like it once was. People who aren’t wealthy can come and be less intimidated than they once were. But there is plenty of room to grow.
This God of mercy wants HIs people to be characterized by mercy to the world around them. His words to us here are strong.
I figured out this section in my head and what it meant. Then I read the context again a few times along with a reading of my study Bible. I had to change my whole post. I realized it wasn’t talking about what I originally thought it was talking about. These last 2 verses are pretty strong. Do you realize what they are saying?
My understanding of this, fueled by what I read all around it and in the notes, is that I am to speak and live as someone who is under the law of liberty. But when I am judged by God in the end, if I have not been showing mercy, I will not receive mercy. If I have been living out mercy to those in need of it, the acts of mercy that I have done for others will triumph over God’s judgment. Those are powerful words!
This is followed up with the passage on how our faith and our works go together. Our works of mercy show the truth of our faith. If there are no works, we have to question whether the faith exists.
We know that when we stand before God, we will be judged on what we did with Jesus and how we responded to His death for our sin. This is the most important thing. But it isn’t the only thing. Alongside our life in Christ, is a sign of whether there actually is life there. How did we treat the poor and needy around us? Were we generous to them…and I’m not simply talking about handouts of money. How did we care for them? Were we merciful? This is supposed to be characteristic of God’s people. It is pretty scary to think that so many supposed Christians and pastors in the US seem much more focused on their own personal possessions than in showing mercy to others. We are not known for our mercy as a group. Only small segments of the church are. How sad.
Working in a caring profession doesn’t necessarily make a person merciful as they care for people.
I had a job for many years as a nurse, but not all nurses, including myself at times, are merciful and kind all of the time. Some of it is a protective device for sure. Some of it is because we get tired of hearing everyone’s complaints. The suffering is impossible to completely relieve. It can be overwhelming sometimes. You have physical, emotional, and psychological pain all around you. If you are clued into all of it and are trying to care for a bunch of patients, it is just impossible. But the challenge is to be merciful in a job like that. No, we can’t meet every need. But in the caring for people, we can be kind and merciful. We can treat them as people made in the image of God, not as pieces of meat. Only God knows those parts of what we do and how we did it.
It’s really that way with almost every job. But He may be calling us to volunteer to do something extra in terms of mercy. It may involve visiting people who are **shut-in, taking a meal to a family who has recently taken in foster children, helping them with supplies for the children, helping at a homeless mission and visiting the people there while they eat after you serve the meal, tutoring children at a local public school…as you can tell, there are all kinds of needs all around. It is simply a matter of choosing where God would have you serve and help out. You know he wants you to do it. It won’t take a lot of prayer except for which place to serve.
But I’m writing to caregivers
But right now, I’m writing to caregivers mostly. You are already serving a needy person or two. You may even need to ask for help from people in your church or people around you. So many people wear themselves out because they won’t ask for help from people apart from family. But often your church family would be glad to help some to give you a chance to get away for short breaks. Is it difficult to ask for help? Yes! But the worst thing people can say is, “No, I’m sorry, I can’t help.” You won’t be any worse off than you are now.
Recognize that you are doing mercy work now. Look at your attitude. I’m not judging you at all. Some days it isn’t what it needs to be. Some days you feel very resentful. Carrying a load of resentment around is exhausting!
On other days, you feel very alone. Just know that if you are in Christ, you are not alone. You have the resources to be merciful when you don’t feel merciful, to be loving when you don’t feel that way. This is a short season that will soon end. May God be with you.
** These are things people I know are doing to minister in our local community.