I just wrote a blog post working with what it means for a Christian to be judgemental, how to deal with judgemental Christians, and the verse that calls us to judge with righteous judgement. It seems that ruling and reigning in justice is one of the central aspects to being a Christian, seeing as we are united to the reigning Christ. And yet, this doesn’t encapsulate the full story, because we have to think about how Christ reigns in justice.
James writes in James 2:13 “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” He is writing in the context of Christians showing partiality. They see a rich man come to Church and everybody wants to be his friend, while a poor man comes to Church and he has to go on to look for another Church, because he is lost in the masses. James writes: “But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:9). Ultimately the Christian community is being judged by God’s Law for their treatment of some people over others.
We must be characterized by mercy, because of the mercy of God shown to us. We must be characterized by mercy because mercy triumphs over judgement. He says again in 3:17-18: “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” In 5:19-20, James writes again: “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”
In order to judge with righteous judgement, for us who are judged under the law of liberty (James 2:12), we must desire to show mercy. We already know that judgement is without mercy to the ones who show no mercy (James 2:13).
And so in the Christian Community, mercy ought to triumph over judgement. In other words, it ought to be a community characterized by repentance and forgiveness, characterized by a willing giving of ourselves so that we might see the growth and even the salvation of others. The Law of Liberty doesn’t give people to the right to do whatever they want, but the ability to do what is right, to be free from sin including that of partiality.
Ultimately the call to righteous judgement is not a call to legalism (Do’s and dont’s), or nationalism (we are Dutch first then Christian), or elitism (Our church is a middle class church). If it is defined by those things, then it loses the righteous element. It is a call to live lives that are an out-pouring of the mercy of God. It is a call to see the mercy of God and then to go out and live out this mercy, to let the mercy of God shape our lives into mercy shaped lives. Sin binds our lives, distorts them, and eventually destroys an individual. Mercy shapes our lives, transforms them, molds and crafts them into little images of Christ, serving, standing firm, and speaking the truth in love, living in joyful fellowship with God.