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Communion Meditations (2015)

Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment

Originally scheduled for June 7

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!

(James 2:12-13 NIV).


There is a young man of my acquaintance who is, as I write this, sitting in a jail cell awaiting trial. There is virtually no doubt as to his guilt. The district attorney has offered him a more than reasonable plea-bargain. He has refused it, insisting upon a trial. His view seems to be that the court owes him mercy for his crime. He pleads his circumstances; he pleads that he is a first-time offender; he pleads that he is basically a nice guy. All these things are true. But is he entitled to mercy? The answer is, I think not. No one can be said to be entitled to mercy. It may be the good pleasure of the court to give mercy, but there is no requirement for it.

Judgment, you see, is a necessary precursor to mercy. You cannot be merciful to the innocent in a court of law, though you must be fair and just. Mercy can only be given to the guilty, and then only after we have rendered justice. If this principal were strictly enforced by God, all of us would wind up in hell. Fortunately for us, there is a way to receive mercy.

Judgment indeed has preceded mercy, for our sins have been born by Christ at the Cross. Jesus paid for our sins; justice has been satisfied. But this does carry with it the implication that if I want mercy it must be received on God’s terms, not my own. And as James tells us here, his terms are simple: we must be merciful to others. By giving the mercy of sinful man we obtain divine mercy, called grace.

In a way taking communion is the acceptance of that mercy. By participating in communion you remember the sacrifice of Christ which has enabled the mercy of God to reach you. Indeed, by participating in communion you claim that mercy for yourself. But how can you claim mercy for yourself without acknowledging the Lordship of Jesus Christ? He is the one who commanded you to remember him in communion. If you are obedient to that command you must logically be obedient to all of his commands; you call him “Lord” and therefore you are subject to his commands. His command to you is to be merciful to others.

Therefore, examine yourself. Have you indeed been merciful to others, or are your standards for others much stricter than your standards for yourself? If so, this is a very fruitful area for the exercise of repentance.

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