Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment
12 Speak and act as those who are to be judged by the law of freedom. 13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has not shown mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:12-13)
Closing this section on the warning to not show any favoritism, James uses verses 12 and 13 to appeal to the readers to obey the royal law, to love your neighbor as yourself. Those that judge others tend to forget that one day, they too will be judged by God. The standard by which everyone will be judged will be according to the “law of freedom,” which is in reference to the gospel and Christ. We can see this in John 8:32 and 36: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…So if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.” The law of freedom is whether or not you have a relationship with Jesus Christ, who sets people free from the chains of sin. Therefore, James reminds the believers that because Christ has set you free from sin, “speak and act,” meaning to live in obedience to God and glorifying Him with your actions. One of my favorite commentators, Max Anders, summarizes verse 12, saying, “Faith in Jesus Christ provides freedom to escape hatred and self-love and to love our neighbors as ourselves.”
For verse 13, James alludes a bit to Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” This is highlighted in the last part of verse 13, “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” Anders warns, “this does not mean we receive mercy from God only when we show mercy to others.” This verse does not advocate for a merit based earned salvation. If you are a believer in Christ, you are forever saved and granted mercy from God. Therefore, James advocates here to display that same mercy to others that was shown to believers from God. Judging others, showing favoritism, has no place then in a believer’s life, but instead, mercy and forgiveness should reside in those places after being transformed by God.
Isaac De Guzman