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Mercy triumphs over judgment?

Updated: Jul 1, 2023

“Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

It’s a good thing! But, I want to caution you to be careful with this word. I feel like all too often these words are taken out of context, as if to mean that God has so much mercy toward people that He won’t judge them.

But the quote, with the context, reads rather differently:

“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” – James 2:12-13

Read this way, we see that God’s mercy is conditional – God is not merely a softie who loves to love everyone (even though He is greatly loving and desires to show His mercy toward us), but rather God is also a just God and will judge those without mercy who themselves don’t show mercy to others.

This becomes very clear in Jesus’ own teaching. For example, you can read the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:23-35). This parable ends by saying:

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you asked me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’

“In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

(Then, chillingly, it reads as follows…)

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” – Matthew 18:32-35

Do you see it? God, as represented by the “master” in the parable, doesn’t just forgive, show mercy, and withhold judgment no matter what. Instead, He requires His servants to show mercy to others.

So yes, it is amazingly wonderful that God is good enough and patient enough to forgive us and show us compassion and mercy when we humbly repent and turn to Him (Exodus 34:6-7).

But that also doesn’t mean we can simply be slack in our holiness and inconsiderate toward others, doing whatever ill we want towards our fellow man (Romans 6:1-2).

In sum, I think it would be very fitting for us to have the same perspective as Jesus when He spoke these words in the Beautitudes:

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” – Matthew 5:7

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