Armed with Mercy

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, March 31, 2019 0 comments

by Logan Ames

Two weeks ago, I had the tremendous opportunity to go to an all-day conference with over 1,000 brothers and sisters in Christ that was put on by The Voice of the Martyrs. It was truly a blessing to hear from men who have either seen or experienced firsthand the persecution of faithful Christians in other places in the world. It strengthened my faith to hear of these courageous men and women who ask for prayer more than any other needs, who choose to love even the enemies who are causing them lasting physical pain, and who say they don’t even pray for the persecution to stop because it actually keeps them on their toes and keeps their faith strong and growing.

The first man who spoke has not experienced direct persecution himself, but he is the VoM representative for a very large area in Asia where many Christians are being tortured and killed. Needless to say, he has seen the effects of persecution as he has traveled to those areas. He shared that as he was talking to some members of a church whose pastor had been murdered right in front of his family, one of the leaders brought up 1 Peter 4:1, which says, “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin.” The speaker shared how he was blown away at such an incredible display of faith and obedience. He talked about how we so often arm ourselves with so many other things rather than Christ. But Peter knew that we must be intentional about arming ourselves with Christ’s attitude and avoiding that which comes from the flesh.

One of the attitudes that we have to avoid is what James talks about in James 2:12-13 - judgment. Instead, we should be armed with an attitude of mercy because that was the attitude of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. James tells us that we must “speak and act” knowing that we will be judged not by how well we follow every law known to man, but by “the law that gives freedom.” Interestingly, James is reminding us that even though we are not bound by the law in the sense that the Jews of his time believed they were, there is still a standard by which God will judge us and that standard is indeed LAW in his eyes. James’ older brother, Jesus of Nazareth, said something similar when he was questioned regarding which commandment is the greatest: “Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments’” (Matthew 22:37-40).

Have you ever wondered why Jesus gave an answer of TWO commandments in that response when the Pharisee was looking for one? The Pharisees probably would have agreed with just the first one, but Jesus quickly added the second one and said it is “like” the first. This means that the two really can’t be separated. Loving others is LIKE loving God, and the best way to self-evaluate our love for God is to look at how we’re doing at loving those he puts around us. The Apostle John also drew a connection between the two in 1 John 4:20: “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen." All of these verses show that the writers of the New Testament, as well as early Church leaders and our Lord himself, were consistent in declaring that we are bound by the law of love, which is the “law that gives freedom” that James mentions. Unlike other laws, we are bound to this one gratefully and willingly, understanding that we are merely passing on to others what we have received from God.

Because James considers this standard a “law” by which all Christians are bound, there also has to be a consequence for choosing not to adhere to it. We must understand that refusing to show mercy to others who have hurt us, even those who are still severely persecuting us, would render us incompatible with the faith that is based on love and mercy. So, James continues, “because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful” (James 2:13). Once again, he is echoing our Lord, who said in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." Do you want to find yourself in a situation where you have to answer to God for every sin you’ve ever committed and his wrath has to be satisfied? I certainly don’t, and that’s why I want to be armed with mercy toward those who hurt me and not judgment.

Jesus also said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judge. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1-2). It’s easy for us as human beings to pound our fists and want justice. We want people to get what they deserve, until those “people” are ourselves and those we care about. The New Testament is clear that we cannot have it both ways. We cannot judge others according to their adherence to the law but expect to receive mercy by the law that gives freedom. If you judge another human being by every hurt they’ve committed against you and hold a grudge until they satisfy YOUR desire for atonement, then you are showing God and others that you don’t really believe in the laws of grace and mercy. And if you don’t really believe in grace and mercy, you can’t expect to receive it from the One who freely gives it to those who DO want to live by those laws. James ends verse 13 by saying, “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” If you have received mercy from God, you’re only fighting a losing battle if you judge others by the old law.

I’ll leave you with some lyrics from the all-time great song by the late Rich Mullins called “Awesome God." In part of the second verse, he writes, “Judgment and wrath he poured out on Sodom, mercy and grace he gave us at the cross." You see, the only One who could ever show judgment toward wrongdoers is the only One who never needed mercy. He’s never needed it, yet He freely gives it. And in a few circumstances where He, in His omniscient wisdom, determined it was necessary, He poured out judgment. Since you and I will always depend on mercy, we are not like God, and therefore we have no reason or right to withhold mercy from anyone else. If someone has hurt you, today is a chance to reflect on all the mercy God has shown you and then pass it on to that individual. Ask God to help you do what you know you have to do, and He will help you.

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