Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment

from the James reading plan

James 2:1-13, Zechariah 7:9-10, Matthew 7:1-5, Romans 13:8-10

Most of us aren’t murderers or thieves or adulterers. Those sins are the “worst” of sins, the extra-double-plus bad ones. Those are the sins that clearly break God’s law. We don’t do those things. (I mean, unless you count bitterness, coveting, lust, or pornography. Moving on quickly, though.)

Yet we’re all law-breakers in one overarching way: we lack love. Wait, what? Yes, a lack of love and a lack of mercy not only break God’s law, but this is where all law breaking comes from.

James brings this to our attention by describing favoritism in the church. A wealthy person receives honor while a poor person is ignored and pushed to the fringes. The richly attired person is moved front and center while the shabby person is asked to sit in the back. In our context today, this kind of attitude and behavior dons other garments—racial favoritism, gender favoritism, generational favoritism, and cultural favoritism. We are all inclined to favor one kind of person over another. And in so doing, we fail to love as Christ loved.

We think of “love your neighbor as yourself” as the Golden Rule. That’s a cute, shiny phrase, but it undersells what Jesus calls one of the two greatest commandments. This must mean love is deeper and broader than we normally think of it—more active and big and robust and committed, not simply romantic or feely. Love must be an attitude and a perspective, even a lifestyle. It must be a shaping, defining force.

When we lack love, we judge, whether or not we are in any position to do so. We judge others more harshly than we would like to be judged and for the very things we fail at daily. We forget we will be held to the very standard by which we judge others. We are blinded by the log in our own eye while we make much of the sawdust in someone else’s.

We are all law-breakers because we lack love. For this reason, we deserve judgment and we need mercy. We need it foremost from Jesus, and we have it.

Christ’s mercy has already triumphed over judgment. But has it done so in our lives? Do we share that mercy forward and do we receive it from others? Are we shaped by it or by the desire to judge others in order to position ourselves as something we are not?

Written by Barnabas Piper

Post Comments (17)

17 thoughts on "Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment"

  1. Bernie Connelly says:

    In these crazy times it is so easy to judge others. I know that is what I do, especially behind the steering wheel in my car, or when i watch the news on TV. Lord my prayer is to see others as you do. To show your love, the love which has saved even me.

  2. Andrew Flack says:

    This entire passage hit me hard. James starts talking about bias and favoritism, and then moves along to the golden rule, and leads to God as the ultimate judge and enforcer of the golden rule, and closes saying how mercy triumphs judgment. This is a passage I’ve read countless times and everyone knows it but I’ve never actually sat down and thought about the connection between these things. With favoritism and judgement, you aren’t showing mercy, you aren’t loving, and you aren’t loving others as yourself. And if you do this. You will be judged as you have judged others. This is one of the hardest rules to follow. And we look at it so lightly. If you honestly look for it, love is littered all over the Bible. It’s what Gods intention for us as His creation was. With love, there’s no judgement, there’s no wronging of others, there’s no sin, etc. All that’s left is what God intended for us. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve struggled with judgement and lack of mercy or love without even thinking about it. I’ll see one person and immediately think that I should stay away from them and keep my distance. And then I’ll see another and immediately think that that’s the person who’s “worthy of my attention” this is absolutely awful to do as a Christian. Judgement clouds my Christianity because I’ll forget to reflect as a man of God and just judge for my own sake. And the worst thing about it is we don’t even notice.

  3. Doug says:

    This is so good to read this again and know the truth. It helps me in dealing with my brothers and sisters in Christ who don’t love others or leave people marginalized because of their politics. God’s word rises above all of that thankfully. And it gives me pause to return to the fact that if I don’t love it is sin like the big ones. Thankful for God’s grace when I fall on this and get back up and do it better the next time hopefully

  4. Alex says:

    The command to love one another is something we all fail at daily. It can be in obvious ways where we show harshness to some people, or subtle ways where it’s simply down to who we sacrifice time for.

    We are called to love one another, not to show favouritism but to show mercy. I know this is something I often fail at. I find it easy to love those who I feel are easy to love, but I’m not called to only love those like the rich man.

    I can be quick to judge people, to assume myself as better than others, more spiritually mature. But that’s a lie and actually only reveals the depth of sin in my own life.

    In light of the election it could be easy to judge others for how they have voted, or for their opinions. But we have to gold our tongues, we are called to show love and to show mercy even when it isn’t easy or doesn’t come naturally.

    What a beautiful picture it would be if all of us, even in this group, showed this kind of love and mercy to one another. And that’s a challenge to me, because this is how God has called us to live. And I know that if we do strive to live like this, our lives would be an incredibly encouraging and God pleasing one, and demonstrate a love that overflows out into the world around us.

  5. Jacob Hoyle says:

    This was spot on.. I had a conversation ion recently with a friend and this was why he felt he had a “bad” experience in church he felt static because his family was known for coming from a rough part of town and .. he decided he was going to be saved and when he did it was a not so welcoming crowd.. that’s a shame.. I finally convinced him to give church another try and he found THE church where we go (Bethlehem of Gastonia NC). .. but this scripture definitely points out that this happens a lot in our society within the church . Grateful my church is multi cultural and open to all of gods people

  6. Enjuju says:

    Growing up, I was often at the losing end of favoritism. I never felt I fitted in. Now that I am an adult, and somehow just as life takes me, I become the popular one, I have my clique, and I have my community.

    But among the people I know, I myself demonstrated favouritism. Because that is the culture. This is the way everyone behaves and now that I fit in, I should do the same to stay fitted in.

    It feels extremely counter intuitive to welcome the ugly one, the awkward one, I was one them. I’m afraid to associate with my past.
    I pray that God will help me overcome this attitude, that I have been cultivating for most of my life.

  7. Isaiah says:

    This reading was something I needed to hear today. This is an area with which I struggle pretty consistently yet hardly ever think to address it. When picturing the rich vs the poor, I couldn’t help but picture the happy vs the depressed, the able vs the disabled, the wise-in-their-faith vs the weak-in-their-faith (one in which I often get caught up), and one that I think is way more common than we realize: the “pleasant” vs the “annoying.” In all different types of characteristics found in people, we like to treat people better when they have the characteristics we find more “enjoyable”-usually the former of those previously listed. This makes me realize the types of people that I am clearly missing out on loving just how wrong it is to neglect them. Though it doesn’t always seem to derive from hate in my heart towards these people, I am still not showing them the love that Christ has shown me. Whether we realize it or not, how often do we find ourselves being in a room full of people and we chose to converse with and love on the people who laugh a lot, talk about the same things we talk about, or they look “normal,” and don’t have many things going wrong. These are the people to whom James says we show favoritism and I know in my life this is very true. I pray for a soft and open heart for the poor, the sad, the weak, the awkward, the disabled. I want to show them as much love as I do the rich, the happy, the “normal.”
    I’m also praying to live out the truth that love is what allows me to live out God’s truth, commands, and will for me. It is true in Romans that the law is summarized in the command to love. I want to be able to live this out and make this true throughout my life only by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.

  8. Kevin says:

    An eye opening reading this morning. I think to times I look at someone or hear something from someone and I immediately say something judgmental about them, or even think they aren’t a good person. This isn’t how God loves us. Kinda hard for me to grasp, but my prayer each day is to love like Jesus did even more today. Man it’s hard, but if he loves me through my crap, I can love whoever through whatever. It’ll just take some time and effort.

  9. Terrell Chapman says:

    Mercy triumphs over judgement. I have always had a bad habit of judging people, and I would try and justify it by saying that I’m a very observant person. Nevertheless, sometimes I feel I will never be able to love the way God loves, and use that as an excuse to continue in my sinful ways. But acquiring God’s Love simply involves a person opening their heart and letting Him in. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s a gift that is definitely accessible with His help, but we can’t access it on our own because we were born with sin. So, from this day forth, I challenge myself to allow God to use me in EVERY situation I encounter — not just music, not just at church, and not just with my family. I will use this God-given love to fulfill His purpose for my life, and lead people to Him in any way that I can.

  10. Matt Vestal says:

    When we truly love others we withhold judgement. Choosing not to judge may be the simplest, but most internally difficult, way to love someone. It is an expression of love that if done effectively the recipient of this act of love would never know the action. However withholding judgment would shape other external behaviors that the recipient would experience. To be able to truly welcome, serve, honor, and give to someone without lording it over them – we must first start with withholding judgement and approaching people with a true attitude of love.

  11. Dalen Hanquist says:

    I LOVE how he explain love as an attitude. So often I see love as is always being something that I do or buy for someone (it can be). But in this love is described as an attitude or mind set. To love is to not judge, and to not judge is to honor Jesus for his death. He is the ultimate judge, and is overflowing with mercy and love in his judgements decisions

  12. Nico says:

    I’m a very judgmental person. Even thou I like to think I’m not. Reading this convicts me on needing to change the way I think. Because I Love is something that I understand but not fully embrace. Like the last section I can have a lot of anger / hatred take over and my emotions do most of the thinking. Being judgmental is just like any other sin that I have in my life. That it’s something I need to work on and pray to God to help me overcome my sin. Help me replace that sin with something good. Because sin never truly goes away we just replace it with something good / Godly!

  13. Matthew says:

    I struggle with anger which after reading James today shows that I am not responding how I should I’m not showing love. It can be a scary thought that we will be judged in the same way we judge others.

  14. Eli says:

    Is there any part of me that shows favoritism toward people that God loves equally?

    How will this question change the way I love others as unto Christ?

    The only reason I have life eternal is because God chose to judge his perfect son, and not judge me.

  15. Rylan Schmidt says:

    Often, I view myself as someone that shows love towards others. I think that I am doing a good job, but in reality I am falling so short in this area. I catch myself judging others by their appearance, the way they talk, the way they do certain things. Not that I am plotting evil in my heart towards them, but I make a mental note not to get too close.

    What would our lives be like if Jesus did this to us? We would not even have the opportunity to spend eternity with him. If he treated us the way that we treat others, he would not have died on the cross for us. God knows the evil Jesus dealt with in his time on earth. Everything from demon possession to hypocrisy. But he loves us anyway. He doesn’t care about who we are or what we’ve done. He loves us because we are his children. He gave his life from the love in his heart that he gives to us freely.

  16. JeffJupp says:

    God I’m guilty of this one oftentimes I spend a lot of time trying to make sure everyone isn’t offended but often times I write people off in my life and in general. GOD show me your love and I want to show them your love through me give me the strength to reach out to those around me let me have mercy on those that curse my name and those that mistreat me daily.
    Thank you for all you do and for your promises

    Mercy is something the world has truly forgotten about we are so caught up with not offending people that we don’t even attempt to forgive the ones who do offend people we can’t hold this bitterness inside our hearts forever we have to let it go!

    GOD thank you! Amen

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