The book of James, known for a message of works demonstrative faith and instruction in righteous living also provides an ambitious appeal to mercy. James 2:13 “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” James was a man of fervent and frequent prayer; he closes his letter with an appeal to prayer and confession and suggests that prayers of faith will be answered. In his first chapter he states that doubting or double-mindedness is not characteristic of genuine faith. From there, he addresses issues of unrighteousness within the church and speaks to contradictory ways of living life as well as unfounded condemnation of the life of others.
Mercy is funny though because God and James make it out to be something that is up to our discretion. The benefit is, in showing mercy one will reap mercy. Somehow in withholding the judgment that is due, there is triumph over judgment itself.
5 or so years ago I received a prophetic word over my life that I’ve been half hoping wasn’t true yet have half embraced. The prophet said to me “You love righteousness more than you love people and you need a mercy girl (woman) to balance you out.” While I’ve interpreted those words differently since then, it seems to me now like this was his kind and gentle way of saying, “You want people to get what they deserve, you’d rather wrongs be righted than give compassion to most situations, you’d rather see people changed by God’s grace (getting what they don’t deserve) rather than fall in love with His mercy (not getting what they do deserve). This needs to be fixed and perhaps the only way this can be fixed is if you spend a lot of time with someone who loves to demonstrate mercy on a daily basis.” That was a long interpretation, but it seems most true.
When I sin, I judge myself harshly. I expect judgment to change people and myself because mercy seems so passive and the fruit is hard to see. To judge between right and wrong is so much easier than withholding judgment in hope of someone’s heart softening. Yet Jesus implores religious leaders to go and find out what this means, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” He says, “Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.” Micah 6:8 says, “Love mercy.” In other words, learn to love enduring wrong and trusting in God to make it right by forgiving. It’s God’s passive passion. I want to know it and to know it so well that I show it.
I formerly embraced almost solely the part about a mercy girl because I wanted to marry a nice person hoping I really already loved people and myself with gentleness and compassion. Now my hope is that I would love mercy more than I love righteousness so I would have a genuine love for all people and myself. I want to accept the fact that God withholds judgment from me because He is confident that I can do better as His child. He wants to see me victorious in Christ. Mercy triumphs over judgment because it is the only thing that can triumph over judgment. Our righteousness cannot triumph. Christ’s perfect righteousness and perfect blood allows Him to show mercy by taking the punishment I deserved. This is why I’m still learning to love mercy.