James 2 v 12 - 13

James summarises this section of his letter by reminding his readers of the two salient facts of Christian living: 1. Christian believers are now free, but free to fully obey the Law of love. No longer are we bound by a whole series of rules and regulations imposed on us from outside, we are governed by the inner compulsion of love. In one sense, this is far more difficult to live by, as it never ceases to draw us onwards-remember, 'Love until it hurts, then love more'!-and the Jewish religious leaders could go down their list and tick the various rules they had kept. They may have felt proud of what they had accomplished, but erroneously so: it really got them no nearer God's Kingdom, in fact it moved them further away-because the only way we can come before God is on our knees as broken human beings. You may recall the little parable Jesus gave concerning the Pharisee and the tax collector. It was the latter's cry: ''Be merciful to me, a sinner'', which God responded to. 2. Those who show mercy will receive mercy. I know that, looking back on my life, I have needed God's hand of mercy upon me frequently and there have been occasions when I have needed others' mercy extended towards me. James goes even further than this statement by extending it to the Judgement Day, a day when the whole of humanity will be brought before the throne of God and judged for what they have done and what they have not done-the parable of the sheep and goats found in Matthew 25 v 31-46. In the day of judgement those who have shown mercy will find that their mercy has even blotted out their own sin. And what is my definition of 'to show mercy?' It is to extend your hand and heart of forgiveness to those who have wronged you. I have been studying again the story of Joseph and he had to demonstrate enormous spirit in forgiving his brothers for what they had done to him, planning to kill him, selling him into slavery, telling his father Jacob that he had been killed by a wild animal. When Joseph met his brothers again after some fifteen years, he was in the position to wreak powerful revenge on them, but he chose to forgive them instead. He told them, ''You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people''.

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