Mercy

SCRIPTURE

Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law.

10 For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. 11 For the same God who said, “You must not commit adultery,” also said, “You must not murder.” So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law.

12 So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. 13 There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.

Verses 12-13 in NASB

12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.

INTRODUCTION

In the last couple of weeks, I have felt unusual conviction when reading the word of God, especially as it relates to judging others. There is no question that I am guilty. Romans two is directed toward the Jews for judging the Gentiles but today it is directed toward the church for judging the unbelievers. Paul said, You may think you can condemn such people [chapter one, homosexuals, people that do not acknowledge God, people who worship idols], but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things. That is pretty strong language and because it is the word of God, it puts fear in me.

Sunday morning Corey brought a good message on loving your neighbor and he pointed out that your neighbor is anyone is need and that includes needing Jesus. He said, “You are to love ISIS as much as you love yourself.” A the dinner table a few minutes later, my grandson said, “Granddaddy, I don’t love ISIS so I have a problem.” I said, “Son, we all have a problem because I don’t love them either.” Should I love them? Yes! Does Jesus love them? Yes! I told my family that the message revealed two things in me: [1] I don’t love Jesus with all my heart [2] I don’t love my neighbor as much as I do myself. It is not an easy confession to make but since I do not love my neighbor as much as myself, how can I claim to love Jesus with all my heart. I am left to beg mercy and to pray for grace to love HIM more.

So again tonight, we are going to talk first about the ROYAL LAW…

I. LIVING HIGH {ABOVE THE LAW} { verse 8…Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” }

Obviously James has connected the ROYAL LAW to “Loving your neighbor as much as you love yourself.” Why does he refer to this as the Royal law? Let’s suppose you came across a person who incarnated loving your neighbor as yourself. Would this person stand out? Would they be living on a higher plain? Royals live in a world about the common and ordinary. They don’t shop at Krogers; they don’t pay income tax, they don’t wait in lines–they live above the ordinary.

There is an old hymn that we never sing anymore, “I am pressing on the upward way, new heights I’m gaining everyday. Still praying as I onward bound, Lord plant my feet on higher ground. My heart has no desire to stay were doubts arise and fears dismay; though some are content where these abound, my prayer, my aim is higher ground. Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

So I thing James in talking about a higher plain of loving which leads to a higher plain of living and I’m not there but I want to be.

It is also worthy to note that CHRIST has a Kingdom and He is the King of the Kingdom and it is a kingdom of love. His kingdom is actually governed by love not law which support the original point that love takes us to a higher plain. Jesus lived on that higher plain and He is the King. Love trumps the law in His kingdom, just as mercy triumphs over judgment.

II. PASSING JUDGMENT {Verse 9…But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law.}

The primary reason we should not judge others is that we too are law breakers. James said, For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. How many laws do you have to break to become a law breaker? One! To pass the law exam, you have to make a 100. If you score 99, you fail. Normally 99 is a good score, an A+ but not in God’s kingdom, 100 is demanded. We don’t seem to realize it but this fact puts us all on the same level, sinners, law breakers, and moral failures.

In school the person who scores 99 feels vastly superior to the person who made 14 but in God’s kingdom, both are failing grades and it doesn’t matter who made the highest score because 0-99 in failure.

The fact that we all sin and come short of God’s perfect standard should humble us and enable us to see that we have no business judging others. Many years ago a young woman came forward during the invitation. I knew enough about her situation to know that she was not married to the man she was living with. He had two teenage children by his first wife and she was several years younger with no children. She came to join the church. Of course I questioned her salvation to make sure she understood that Jesus saves us not joining a church. Then I said, “Are you married to the man you are living with?” She was honest, she said “No!” Then I said, “Do you think we should work on your relationship with the man you are living with before we do church membership.” She was visible hurt and the more I tried to soften what I said, the worse it got. She turned and went back to her seat and never came to another service. Some years later, I saw here at a store and I apologized and she told me not to worry about it but I have. The man did marry her a few months later but the marriage didn’t last long. Then a few years after that something similar happened and I have doubts about the way I handled the second problem: a family was visiting our church and they owed one of our businessmen a lot of money and they were not trying to pay it back. He said, “If you present them, I will vote against them and according to the by-laws, one vote is all it takes.” The man was an honest businessman but I was caught in a quandary. I did not know what to do. They were not missing a service and I thought what will I do if they come for membership? So, I went to their home and told them about my problem. I encouraged them to attend but not to join: they choose to go elsewhere. I see them occasionally and they have no ill will toward me but to this day, I do not know if I did the right thing.

I am afraid of legalism. When we get nit-picky, were do we stop? On the other hand, when we dedicate a baby and the parents are not legally wed, what kind of message are we sending to our young people? It is a thin line between judging and holding firm to your standards. I am afraid I have erred on the side of legalism and I prefer to err on the side of mercy.

One thing is certain, we all sin and we have all failed the law test. We have all come short of the perfection we see in Christ.

III. SHOWING MERCY [ So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty.  For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.]

What does it mean “judged by the law of liberty?” I think it means we will be judged by how we love. If we love Jesus with all our heart and our neighbor as much as we love our self, I think you are in good shape.

One thing is certain, we had best show mercy if we want mercy. All have sinned, all have failed the law exam and so all need mercy. Grace is a gift, it is receiving: mercy is not getting what we deserve. It is mercy that make grace possible. Just as we cannot comprehend the love of Jesus, neither can we wrap our feeble minds around the mercy of God.

The story of the two debtors in Matthew 18 is a prime example of what James is talking about. One man owed millions of dollars to his king and he begged for mercy and was given mercy but he went out and found a man who owed him a few dollars and he demanded payment. The second debtor begged for mercy but the man who had been forgiven showed no mercy. When word got to the king, he reversed his decision and had the man thrown into prison because he failed to show mercy after he had received mercy.

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