10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. 11 For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not commit murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:10-13 (NASB)
Today many people live lives of judgment upon other people. If people we see or know pollute the earth by throwing rubbish into the street or river, we judge them. If a girl is out late with her boyfriend, without knowing the details we judge they slept together. If a person made an “A” on an exam, but was known as a slacker, we judge he cheated.
This is not the way of God. God did not say one sin was worse than another. He said if we sin against any of them, we have sinned against Him. In Deuteronomy, Moses taught the Israelites to be faithful to all God’s laws and commandments and that any breaking of them would bring God’s punishment or curse. No one law, say murder, is greater than another, say adultery. All laws are equal in God’s eyes.
James made this same point in his letter, James 2:10-13. He said in verse ten, “Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point has become guilty of all.” James wrote to the dispersed Jewish Christians. Because God gave laws and commandments to the Jews, they knew right from wrong, righteousness from unrighteousness. Righteousness only came from a perfect life unstained by sin. Obeying the 613 Jewish laws became somewhat of a competition among the Jews. The Pharisees made a point to show their piety by wearing sack cloth and ashes in the street and praying loudly so every person would see and hear their so-called piety.
James made the point that no sin was greater than another. Added to this, He told them to speak and act with mercy toward other people because they themselves are sinners, too. Show the other person mercy – kindness with an earnest desire to help the other person. Do not point them out as sinners against your own supposed smaller sin. Life is not a competition, but a striving to live in the liberty the Lord Jesus gave us. His liberty gave us the power over sin and death through His indwelling Holy Spirit. Through this liberty, we should strive to live as Christ did, with mercy and love, not competition and pointing out another person’s sin.
James further said, when we live by the law of liberty, we will be merciful and will receive mercy from God the Father who will judge each of us. Jesus stated in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7). God’s love and mercy triumphs in the end. He will judge every person on his or her sins. No sin is greater than another. They each separate a person from God. Yet, God’s mercy and love wins out.
How does God’s mercy win out and affect us? When a person accepts Jesus Christ as his or her Savior, they accept the love and mercy of God’s provision of a perfect sacrifice for the judgment of his or her sin. That person’s sin is atoned for in the death of Jesus Christ. Whether the person sins or not the rest of his or her life, Jesus Christ’s blood atones for that person’s sins. God’s judgment of a Christian’s sin will not involve death, permanent separation from Him, because Jesus blood paid for our penalty. We can never be separated from God. That is God’s love gift – His mercy. Despite our sinfulness, He chose to love us, provide the perfect sin sacrifice, and show us mercy by washing our sins away so we would not receive our just sin penalty – death. We did not deserve God’s grace and mercy. He gave it to us because of His love. God wants to be in a relationship with each of us.
What happens to a person who sins then? If the sinner is a Christian, God will judge that person when he or she dies and goes to heaven. His judgment on the person will not be permanent separation from God because Jesus bought our freedom from that judgment with His death. God’s judgment will occur though in some way. Maybe we will not live in a great a house or sing in the first choir when in heaven or perhaps we will live with the consequences of our sins while on earth – polluted land, poverty because of gambling, sickness due to life choices, etc. We cannot fathom the depths of God’s thoughts and can only conjecture what may be.
But what happens to the person who sins who is not a Christian? Once again, God is merciful. He gives that person their whole life to hear about Him and respond to His love shown through the Gospel – the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. If during the person’s life, using the free will God gave him or her, the person chooses not to follow Jesus Christ, that person will experience permanent separation from God when he or she dies. A chasm will exist for eternity between that person and God. Permanent separation is hell.
Getting back to James then, we should understand what he taught the Jewish Christians of the first century. He taught them not to judge other people. Judging is God’s job. Everyone would undergo judgment by God at the appropriate time. Instead, these Jewish Christians must realize every sin is equal. Each sin creates a wedge, a separation, in their relationship with God. Because each person is imperfect because of sin, they must be kind and merciful to other people. The Jewish Christians’ sins were not “better” than the sins of a non-believer; therefore, they could not and should not judge another person. Instead, show mercy just as they would want to receive mercy. Love and be kind because God has shown love, kindness, and mercy to them. Remember, since mercy triumphs over judgment, they knew as believers they would win out in the end because Jesus Christ won the victory for every believer.
Show other sinners the victorious life. Show them love, mercy, and grace so they will want to believe in and follow Jesus, too. Mercy wins in the end.
What will you do today?
Will you compare yourself to another sinner to make yourself feel better than that person?
Will you praise God for His grace and mercy that won you victory over sin and death?
Then will you turn to the other person and show him or her the love, grace, and mercy of God
so he or she can have the victory of Christ, too?
Once again, you get to decide.