“Mercy Exults Triumphantly Over Judgment”—How?
THAT mercy can ‘exult triumphantly over judgment’ should keenly interest every one of us. Why? Because the apostle Paul in his inspired writings assures that “each of us will render an account for himself to God.”—Jas. 2:13; Rom. 14:12.
Heightening our concern is the fact that God’s time for taking judicial action toward all mankind now draws very near. Prophecies show that mystic “Babylon the Great,” the world empire of false religion, as well as all the political nations, will shortly feel the force of divine judgment. All persons on earth face a period of “great tribulation,” and survival through it rests on their having God’s approval, his favorable judgment. (Matt. 24:21, 22; 25:31-34, 41; Rev. 17:1-5; 19:11-15) That time of tribulation will usher in the millennial rule of God’s Son over the earth, during which “Judgment Day” the living survivors and the resurrected dead will be judged according to their deeds.—Matt. 11:21-24; 12:41, 42; Acts 10:42; Rev. 20:12, 13.
But mercy can ‘exult triumphantly over judgment’ even in the present time, for God’s judicial expressions are not limited exclusively to those judgment periods that lie in the future. Through Christ Jesus as head of the Christian congregation earth wide, Jehovah God daily deals with his servants. In varying degrees and ways, He makes manifest his favor or lack of favor upon them, both collectively and individually, even as he did with the congregation of fleshly Israel in ancient times.
Jehovah may, for example, act as Judge in raising one to a more responsible position among his people, while abasing another. (Compare Psalm 75:6, 7.) Or, where there is controversy among those claiming to serve him, perhaps with someone being unjustly charged or opposed, God can similarly make known his viewpoint and manifest whom it is that he favors in the issue. (Ps. 35:1, 23, 24) Then, too, the Scriptures show that within the Christian congregation there are elders who serve as judges representing Christ Jesus, their Head, and his Father, Jehovah God. Their judgment is to be guided and based on God’s expressed Word. God can use such men in expressing judgment or in applying discipline.—1 Cor. 5:3-5, 12, 13; 6:2-5.
AVOID ‘HAVING YOUR JUDGMENT WITHOUT MERCY’
Whether at some critical point during the present time, or in a fast-approaching Day of Judgment, how will we fare in rendering an account for ourselves before God and his appointed Judge, Christ Jesus? Many factors are involved, but we may, with great benefit, here consider the one that James, the disciple and half brother of Jesus, emphasizes when saying: “For the one that does not practice mercy will have his judgment without mercy. Mercy exults triumphantly over judgment.” (Jas. 2:13) How can we prove ourselves ‘practicers of mercy’ so as to avoid a “judgment without mercy”?
Consider first the context of James’ inspired words. He had earlier pointed out how wrong it was to show favoritism in the congregation, to be partial to the financially prosperous over the poor. (Jas. 2:1-9) He also stressed the importance of aiding and caring for those in need among the disciples. (Jas. 1:27; 2:14-17) Then, discussing the “heavier judgment” to which those serving as congregational teachers are liable, he stated forcefully the need to use the tongue rightly—to bless and benefit, not to curse and damage.—Jas. 3:1-18.
So, then, where do we find ourselves in this picture? Do we show special consideration to the financially prosperous over the financially poor, whether ministering outside or inside God’s congregation? If in a position of responsibility among God’s people, do we accord special favor, privileges and concessions on such basis? Or do we treat all with impartiality, being more interested in discerning good spiritual qualities, rather than material possessions or business acumen? Do we remember that, although some may contribute more in a monetary way than others, it is still the ‘mite of the widow of little means’ that is most laudable, because it is given, not out of one’s abundance, but out of want?—Luke 21:1-4.
But what has this to do with mercy? How does partiality or favoritism affect mercy?
James wrote: “If, now, you practice carrying out the kingly law according to the scripture: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing quite well. But if you continue showing favoritism [“snobbery,” New English Bible], you are working a sin, for you are reproved by the law as transgressors.” (Jas. 2:8, 9) Partiality or favoritism works against mercy, stifles it. It tends to make one insensitive to others’ needs or, as Proverbs 21:13 says, to stop up one’s ear from hearing “the complaining cry of the lowly one.”
True, special consideration may be, and in some cases even should be, shown. But it should be the individual’s fine spiritual qualities that move us to show this special consideration. For example, 1 Timothy 5:17 says: “Let the older men who preside in a fine way be reckoned worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard in speaking and teaching.” Of Epaphroditus, who had come “near to death, exposing his soul to danger” in order to render service to Paul, the apostle wrote: “Keep holding men of that sort dear.” (Phil. 2:25, 29, 30) This is not partiality. It is the giving of due and merited recognition to faithful service.
James shows that mercy plays a vital role in true worship. He says that “the form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world.” (Jas. 1:27) When seeing serious needs of brothers, such worship does not allow you to show concern only by expressing the wish or even faith that ‘things will work out all right for them.’ It moves you to act on their behalf, doing what you can to help.—Jas. 2:14-17.
The apostle John wrote in similar vein: “Whoever has this world’s means for supporting life and beholds his brother having need and yet shuts the door of his tender compassions upon him, in what way does the love of God remain in him? Little children, let us love, neither in word nor with the tongue, but in deed and truth.” Yes, along with the “public declaration” of God’s name we do not want to forget the “doing of good and the sharing of things with others, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased,” because “your Father is merciful.”—1 John 3:17, 18; Heb. 13:15, 16; Luke 6:36.
Besides this, true worship calls for ‘bridling the tongue,’ not using it in proudness or jealousy, nor in bragging or making partial distinctions, but, rather, using it in meekness, peaceableness, reasonableness. Such kind and healthful use of the tongue shows that one has the wisdom that is “full of mercy.” (Jas. 3:13-18) This, too, is vital, for “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” That is why Jesus said that “every unprofitable saying that men speak, they will render an account concerning it on Judgment Day.”—Matt. 12:34-36.
So, then, if we were to show partiality in our dealings with others, if we were unfeeling as to concern for their needs, if our use of the tongue were harsh against others, critically judging them—what could we expect in time of judgment? James says: “The one that does not practice mercy will have his judgment without mercy.” Yes, the one “stopping up his ear from the complaining cry of the lowly one, he himself also will call and not be answered.” (Prov. 21:13) God, in effect, lets them ‘taste their own medicine.’
HOW MERCY CAN EXULT TRIUMPHANTLY IN TIME OF JUDGMENT
Jehovah God is, indeed, “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and great in loving-kindness.” But those who desire his mercy in time of judgment must themselves be merciful. Jesus earlier made the same point James makes when he said: “Happy are the merciful, since they will be shown mercy.”—Ps. 145:8; Matt. 5:7.
So, if a truly compassionate Christian should himself come into some difficulty, perhaps due to falling short in some respect or even because of some momentary misstep, he need not fear a “judgment without mercy.” Such a merciful person is not to be compared with the man who completely abandons a righteous course to continue in a wicked one, with the result that “none of all his righteous acts that he has done will be remembered” by God or by his representatives. (Ezek. 18:24) In time of judgment—whether prior to the “great tribulation,” during it or thereafter—his merciful course will stand him in good stead. “For God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name, in that you have ministered to the holy ones and continue ministering.”—Heb. 6:10.
David’s case illustrates this matter. Had God just viewed David as he was at the time of committing his wrong acts with regard to Uriah the Hittite and his wife, Jehovah certainly would have had no cause to show any mercy in David’s case. But Jehovah knew that this act was far from being characteristic of David and that he was, in reality, a compassionate man. David’s record of sincere devotion and his being merciful at heart certainly contributed heavily toward Jehovah’s showing him mercy at that time, though David by no means escaped discipline from God.
Job, under heavy accusation from claimed friends, asked: “When he [God] calls for an accounting, what can I answer him?” What things came to Job’s mind?
His surrounding words show that he knew Jehovah would be much concerned as to whether Job had been a man of true compassion, a man of loving-kindness, as well as an integrity-keeper. (Job 31:13-22, 29-32; compare Psalm 37:21-26.) Note, too, that because of the refreshing kindness shown him by the disciple Onesiphorus, Paul prayed that the Lord might grant this man “to find mercy from Jehovah in that day,” along with his household.—2 Tim. 1:16-18.
Therefore, God rightly exercises mercy toward those who have a fine record of merciful dealing. When they are brought into judgment before God, their merciful course provides him with just reason for applying generously to them the provisions now available through his Son’s ransom sacrifice. Thus mercy, in effect, can ‘exult triumphantly’ over the threat of adverse judgment that might otherwise be leveled against them. (Jas. 2:13) They having been compassionate in dealing with others, Jehovah is compassionate toward them.
Those who serve as elders in congregations will certainly seek to represent faithfully Jehovah’s view and ways in all their dealings with their brothers and sisters. They will remember that they themselves are to “render an account” before the Chief Shepherd of the flock. (Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 5:2-4) When serving as judges they will not fail to note a fine record of mercy on the part of some who may, for the moment, experience some slip in their Christian walking, but who then repent and manifest the sincere desire to continue in faithfulness.
Yes, all of us have real reason keenly to desire that our “account” show a record of much mercy, for “mercy exults triumphantly over judgment.”
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Will those who show favoritism to the financially prosperous be shown mercy by God?
Is injurious gossip merciful?
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Genuine mercy requires acts, not mere words, when cases of need arise among fellow Christians
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Elders deal mercifully with those who themselves practice mercy