For God will not show mercy when he judges the person who has not been merciful; but mercy triumphs over judgement.” (James 2:13, GNB)

The GNB takes a little liberty with the translation here supplying the fact that it is “God” who judges, which is not in the translation.  The ESV is more literal:

For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:13, ESV)

The GNB is more understandable here, so perhaps supplying “God” is a good idea.

The overall interpretation is pretty clear.  When God brings judgment, the person who has not been merciful will not be shown mercy by God.  He will judge them according to how they themselves have behaved towards other men.  This is not good for those who will be judged.

We are grateful that, because of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf, we will not be judged, even though we are certainly guilty of a lack of mercy towards other men.

I believe that the takeaway for followers of Christ here is the importance of mercy in our dealings with other people.  If mercy triumphs over judgment in God’s character, then it should certainly triumph over judgment in our own character.  In a practical sense, I believe that this means that we should be quick to forgive and quick to demonstrate mercy, while we are slow to judge and pursue justice with mercy pouring out of every crack and crevice as we do so.

There is a place in this world for justice, no doubt about that, but we must bring mercy along with us, wherever we go.

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