“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (Reference: James 2:12-13 )
I took some time, and did some research, to understand these verses. The writer of James is not as clear in some translations/versions as he is in other. Anticipate that the law by which you will be judged is a law that has mercy in it – you can feel safe and assured when you are judged by that law. But if you have not shown mercy to others, mercy will not be shown to you. If you want mercy, show mercy. Mercy will triumph over any judgment, but where there is not mercy, judgment (and that judgment may well be harsh) will prevail.
The historic Anabaptists, naturally, felt they were worthy of the judgment that is softened by mercy for did they not show mercy!? (And I would ask of them, if I could, did you show mercy to ALL people?) And when they were judged harshly – and they were by the oppressors, accusers, and persecutors – they reacted strongly to it. Urich Stadler wrote to/about the authorities who were persecuting the Hutterites who lived there, “So far you have always dealt crookedly with us. You have continually threatened to divide and scatter us as if we were prisoners you have captured in battle or criminals under arrest or slaves you have bought. You have not only threatened to do these things but have actually done them to us. You were not willing to search your hearts and humbly consider that God, the protector of widows and orphans, knows how unjustly you are dealing with his poor, exiled children. Yes, in very truth, God the Lord, the righteous Judge, will bring upon each man’s head whatever he did in this world, be it good or evil, for on the day of judgment it will be clearly shown to all. Strict judgment without mercy will be passed on everyone who has not been merciful to his neighbor in this world. [James 2:13]”
One must take, however, in reading and applying this passage. The writer of James does not mean that all types of sin will be forgiven if you have shown mercy. In fact, quite the contrary! The verses preceding verse 12 & 13 deal with the issues of partiality, and not fulfilling both the letter and the spirit of the law. The emphasis is to keep all parts of the law, and to show mercy to others. While many translations/versions interpret the word as “mercy” I am thinking that mercy here is not just forbearance that would soften judgment, but compassion and care that would dissolve harsh judgment away.
So in fact, historic Anabaptist Stadler is not asking too much of the “authorities in Poland” but too little! In fact it could be a question posed to all of the authorities of that time – “Why are you persecuting those who are actually fellow believers?” But beloved, the question can be turned and be applied to the present times – why are some contemporary Christians being so harsh and judgmental, seeming to be without mercy? They are NOT, beloved, upholding God’s law! And where they are without mercy, there will be judgment brought against them!
And how vehement am I about that, beloved?! I know and see the paradox. It is not vehemence, but sorrow I feel. Those who are persecuted and those who persecute equally have my sorrow and concern. We must all make sure we are not pulled into the vortex of hating the haters.
May you, beloved, show mercy at every opportunity, and where you think there should be judgment show mercy instead. And may mercy be shown to you! Selah!