Mercy Triumphs Over Judgement

Meadows along the Timberline Trail, Mount Hood National Forest, Oregon
Meadows along the Timberline Trail, Mount Hood National Forest, Oregon

James wrote in his epistle, “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom.  For judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.  Mercy triumphs over judgment.  What good is it, my brothers, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?  Can such a faith save them?” (James 2:12-14)

Sunrise from the Mount Elbert Trail, Colorado
Sunrise from the Mount Elbert Trail, Colorado

I’ve often wondered exactly what the phrase “mercy triumphs over judgment” meant.  I knew that God is righteous and that He will judge everyone according to what they have done (Romans 2:6).  God is impartial (Romans 2:11, Acts 10:34, Deuteronomy 10:17) and so I figured that He would judge fairly.  So how does mercy triumph over judgment?

Pinnacle Rock, Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona
Pinnacle Rock, Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona

Recently, I purchased a used item online.  It’s always a slight risk to buy something used, especially from a personal seller on a site like eBay or similar sites.  But given the price, I figured I wasn’t losing much – especially since the description said it came with all the necessary parts.

Blackberry plants by the Pacific Ocean in Redwood National Park, California
Blackberry plants by the Pacific Ocean in Redwood National Park, California

Well, guess what – when it arrived in the mail it was missing half of the parts (literally).  I contacted the seller who promised to send them – and never did.  I contacted the site – they stand behind their sellers and not their buyers; customer service was terrible.  So there I was with half of the product which meant it was pretty useless.

Road to Canyonlands Overlook, Canyon Rims Recreation Area, Utah
Road to Canyonlands Overlook, Canyon Rims Recreation Area, Utah

I prayed about what to do and how to go about getting the other half of the product.  There were technically possibilities that I could have pursued to get my money back.  Yet God gave me the most distinct impression that I was to be merciful in this situation and to let the “sinner” (so to speak) get off scot-free.

Lone sea gull at Cannon Beach, Oregon
Lone sea gull at Cannon Beach, Oregon

It went against everything I’ve ever done with both online buying and online selling.  Sellers are supposed to stand behind their listing information and buyers are supposed to get what’s listed.  But I couldn’t get around what God was placing on my heart: to be merciful to this woman who had sold me the whole product but only shipped half of it.

Views from Black Mesa, Oklahoma
Views from Black Mesa, Oklahoma

In embracing this mercy, I have begun to understand the meaning of “mercy triumphs over judgment”.  This isn’t just a nice platitude that mercy is stronger than judgment and sometimes authorities will choose mercy if when it’s not deserved.  It’s not even that God has chosen mercy instead of judgment because of the cross.

The phrase “mercy triumphs over judgment” is a promise – it says, “When you show mercy, you are setting yourself up not to be judged by God.  But if you choose to judge, you, too, will be judged.”

James says the same thing: “For judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful” (2:13).  That’s a completely different way of looking at mercy and judgment!

Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park, California
Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park, California

I’m not sure about you, but I’d rather not be judged without mercy.  If the key to not being judged is to be merciful, I think I’d better work on my ability to show mercy – even though I’m still trying to figure out how to get the other half of the product.