“Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2.10-13)
It is not possible to live your whole life and obey all of God’s laws in the Old Testament except one. Yet if it were possible, you would still stand guilty of breaking the entire canon of law in the end. The law is whole. Anyone who breaks one facet of something that is whole, breaks its integrity. We see this in collectors who devalue an object because of slight discoloration or because it is no longer in its original packaging.
The point is that there aren’t many individual or separate laws in the Old Testament which are somehow unrelated to each other. The Law is one expression of the will of God. We have overstepped our boundaries by failing to do the will of God. We are operating against His will. We need wholeness and integrity. We need the discoloration caused by our rebellion to be removed. We need to be restored to our original packaging.
We must speak and act as those judged by the Law of Liberty. This is the same Royal Law spoken of in James 2.8. It is the Law of the Old Testament intensified by the Lord Jesus but fulfilled by Him as well. God revealed one Law on Sinai through Moses, His servant. Jesus came along as the Son of God and fulfilled the Law and the will of His Father. It has now become the unbroken Law of Liberty for the sons and daughters of God because of Jesus’ triumph over the grave. “For [or because] judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy.”
James tells us that if we fail to show mercy, we better not expect mercy. Our relationship with the Lord God through Christ produces mercy in us. Jesus would say that “with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Matthew 7.2). If we live our lives in such a way that we fail to demonstrate living faith, we will face a merciless judgment at the end of those lives. “Mercy triumphs over judgement.”
The LORD has said in Hosea 6.6 that He desires mercy and not sacrifice. Jesus used this verse from Hosea to confront the merciless Pharisees. They asked the disciples of Jesus why their Teacher ate with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus heard it and answered: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
We know that all are sinners: Pharisee, disciple, and tax collector alike. But not all sinners know that they are sinners. Mercy doesn’t cancel out judgment. It is not leniency that Jesus demonstrated. But those disciples of Jesus who show mercy need not fear judgment. Showing mercy doesn’t curry favor with God or earn His mercy, but it indicates that we are well-acquainted with God’s mercy. That is why we need not fear.
The Law is a revealer of God’s will and ways. It guides us in this present life. It also forms the basis for our future judgement. You may think that that is a problem. But remember the One who fulfilled all the Law for you. The Law requires that we keep every aspect of it perfectly. God considers our plight and sends us Jesus to keep the Law for us.
If we are Christians, we are bound to a different law. Our concentration is the Law of Liberty. This Royal Law of James is the measure of our conduct at present. It is also the measure of God’s judgment in the future.
James says, “So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.” Our destination is assured, but the future judgment will unfold in a way that demonstrates whether we loved well or not. The future measure of our judgment is love. How well do you love? Jesus will ask you, “How well did you love?” Then, your rewards are determined. Do you sense the loss resulting from a loveless, merciless life? Today, you must love others as Christ loved and with Christ’s love. Learn to love people who are as difficult as you are. If you don’t think you’re difficult to love, you are deceived. Love well. Mercy triumphs over judgment.