For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
One of the clear themes of scripture is that God requires us to show the same compassion toward others that we need of Him. When I’m uncompassionate toward another person, it’s a testimony of pride on my part. Pride has blinded my eyes to my own needs; therefore, I hold others to a higher standard than I can achieve. If I am unmerciful, it’s a declaration to God that I need no mercy. Yet each of us do need mercy – whether we realize it or not.
Most of us realize our own need – at least in part. So let’s think for a moment on the second part of the above verse, “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” What a wonderful truth! How many of us have felt the sting of failure? At times we feel like we are succeeding in our quest toward godliness, but in a moment, we’ve falling flat on our faces and are now lying in the mire of failure.
What is our reaction? Guilt? Discouragement? These are often the emotions that follow the recognition of failure. What’s more, what if we finally grow into the realization that we have something in our lives that we are ashamed of? Shame drives us from God because we want to hide our guilt. We adopt the Adam and Eve syndrome. When Adam and Eve recognized their guilt, they ran from God and tried to hide. But what was God’s response? Though there were consequences to their failure, God didn’t reject them, but He covered their shame.
In Christ we have a greater promise than what Adam had. Our sins are covered, our failures redeemed, and now we need to do something about our feelings guilt. That something is to allow God to take it away. We don’t have to atone for our own failures; we simply look to God and find help in our time of need.
You and I don’t realize it, but we fall short of the standard of Christ in almost every area. Yet we have the promise that we are predestined to conform to the image of Christ. It is the destiny of any who will truly yield their life to God. The path is already laid before us and the only thing that can prevent us is refusing to walk were God is leading. And refusing to allow God to take away the things that do not measure up. You see, God doesn’t measure you based on who you are today, but who you will be when the Lord completes you. He already knows your shortcomings, and God is working to conform your life to His perfect standard. It’s His work in you, not your work for Him.
When God reveals your failure, it isn’t to create guilt; it’s because He’s about to do something in your life. Take a look at Romans 3:19-20
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
This sounds harsh, but it really is not. The perfect standard of God’s law is to show the vast difference between you and the holiness of God. The reason: so you recognize your guilt and recognize your inability to become righteous by human effort. On top of this, through the word, God reveals things in our individual lives that hinder us from being Christ-like. He reveals these so we recognize our flaws and therefore recognize our need. God’s goal is to remove what is against us so He can take it out of the way, draw us into deeper fellowship and become a partaker of His nature (2 Peter 1:4).
The failure drives us away from our own man-made righteousness so we look to Him to give us true righteousness through Christ. God reveals what He’s about to change in our lives if we will yield to Him. In His mercy, God doesn’t reveal all that falls short – for then I would be overwhelmed to despair. Discouragement would overthrow my will to press ahead. Instead, God reveals what He is working to change, and as I allow Him to prune away what hinders, I then am able to draw nearer to the Lord. As I draw nearer, the light of His character reveals the next thing that needs to be changed. It’s a never ending process of conforming to His likeness.
So the next time you feel guilt, don’t flee from God, but submit. The goal isn’t to make you better by fixing your own nature, but to take away what is corrupted so you can receive what is perfected in Christ. The word reveals our failures, not to brow beat us, but to reveal what needs to be released into His care. Then you will have taken one step closer to conforming to the likeness of Christ. The path is already laid out. Allow God to lead you there, one step at a time.