What should disciples do? Can I pass the mercy test?
Can I pass the test? Let’s call it the mercy test. Jesus orders me to be merciful.
Am I? Jesus wants to know. Jesus is serious about this. Jesus calls me to love. That is it. Love is made real in mercy. I need to consider that in my actions.
Every orthodox statement of faith ends with a statement about the return of Jesus the Messiah and the final judgment. Not all disciples agree as to the details of these future events, but the certainty of them none denies.
Nor would any deny the importance of a final judgment. Both Jesus (John 5:24) and Paul (Rom. 8:1) assured us that believers will never be judged for their sins; but our works will be judged and rewarded (Rom. 14:10–13; 2 Cor. 5:9–10).
There will be a test. I can rest assured on that for a fact.
- Micah 6:8 — 8 He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Master require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?
- Matthew 5:7 — 7 “Blessed [happy] are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
- Luke 6:36 — 36 “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
- Zechariah 7:9 — 9 “Thus has the Master of hosts said, “Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother.”
- James 2:12–13 — 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.
- 1 Peter 3:9 — 9 Not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.
- Jude 22 — 22 And have mercy on some, who are doubting.
My words will be judged. Note the words spoken to the two visitors in James 2:3. What we say to people, and how we say it, will come up before God. Even our careless words will be judged (Matt. 12:36). Of course, the words we speak come from the heart; so, when God judges the words, He is examining the heart (Matt. 12:34–37). Jesus emphasized caution when speaking in some of His warnings in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:21–26, 33–37; 7:1–5, 21–23).
My deeds will be judged. Read Colossians 3:22–25 for additional insight.
Slaves, obey your human masters in everything. Don’t work only while being watched, as people-pleasers, but work wholeheartedly, fearing the Master. Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Master and not for people, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Master. You serve the Master the Messiah. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for whatever wrong he has done, and there is no favoritism. | Colossians 3:22-25 Christian Standard Bible (CSB)
It is true that God remembers our sins against us no more (Jer. 31:34; Heb. 10:17); but our sins affect our character and works. We cannot sin lightly and serve faithfully. God forgives our sins when we confess them to Him, but He cannot change their consequences.
My attitude will be judged (v. 13). James contrasted two attitudes: showing mercy to others and refusing to show mercy. If we have been merciful toward others, God can be merciful toward us. However, we must not twist this truth into a lie.
It does not mean that we earn mercy by showing mercy, because it is impossible to earn mercy. If it is earned, it is not mercy! Nor does it mean that we should “be soft on sin” and never judge it in the lives of others. “I don’t condemn anybody,” a man once told me, “and God won’t condemn me.” How wrong he was!
Mercy and justice both come from God, so they are not competitors. Where God finds repentance and faith, He is able to show mercy; where He finds rebellion and unbelief, He must administer justice. It is the heart of the sinner that determines the treatment he gets. Our Lord’s parable in Matthew 18:21–35 illustrates the truth. The parable is not illustrating salvation, but forgiveness between fellow servants. If we forgive our brothers, then we have the kind of heart that is open toward the forgiveness of God.
We shall be judged “by the Law of liberty.” Why does James use this title for God’s Law? For one thing, when we obey God’s Law, it frees us from sin and enables us to walk in liberty (Ps. 119:45). Also, law prepares us for liberty. A child must be under rules and regulations because he is not mature enough to handle the decisions and demands of life. He is given outward discipline so that he might develop inward discipline, and one day be free of rules.
Liberty does not mean license. License (doing whatever I want to do) is the worst kind of bondage. Liberty means the freedom to be all that I can be in Jesus The Messiah. License is confinement; liberty is fulfillment.
Finally, the Word is called “the Law of liberty” because God sees our hearts and knows what we would have done had we been free to do so. The student who obeys only because the school has rules is not really maturing.
What will I do when I leave the school? God’s Word can change my heart and give me the desire to do God’s will, so that I obey from inward compulsion and not outward constraint.
There is one obvious message to this section: our beliefs should control our behavior. If we really believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and that God is gracious, His Word is true, and one day He will judge us, then our conduct will reveal our convictions. Before we attack those, who do not have orthodox doctrine, we must be sure that we practice the doctrines we defend. Jonah had wonderful theology, but he hated people and was angry with God (Jonah 4).
One of the tests of the reality of our faith is how I treat other people. Can I pass the test?
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