Jas 2:11-13 “For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.”
There is only one Lawgiver that affects the hearts of men. It is obvious as we read the Old Testament that there was eventually a myriad of laws given to the Jews (not just the Ten Commandments). Depending on the law and the circumstance, there were different penalties assigned to the breaking of these laws as carried out by men.
Before God, there is a commonality to breaking any of His laws. We become a transgressor (sinner) when we break any one of God’s laws. While there may be varying degrees of punishment before men for breaking these laws, there is only one outcome for sin: the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23). The sin of lying has the same outcome as the sin of adultery. The sin of bearing false witness has the same outcome as the sin of killing. Regardless of how men punish sin (law-breaking) here, the penalty of any and all sin is death.
Keep in mind that this counsel is still involving the injunction to not show partiality to men based on outward appearance (Jas 2:1-4). Also keep in view that James is dealing specifically with the royal law of “Love thy neighbor as thyself (Jas 2:8).” We are now instructed to speak (preach, say, tell) as being judged (tried, sentenced) according to the principle of freedom. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life. Regardless of outward appearances, we are all sinners; we all stand in need of the saving grace of God. Our hope is in the law of the Spirit of life in Jesus that has made us free from the law of sin and death (Rom 8:2).
We are instructed to not just talk the talk, but to also walk the walk; “So speak ye, and so do.” We are supposed to show the same love to others as we would like to receive for ourselves, again, regardless of their outward appearance. It is incumbent upon us to treat those with whom we come in contact with mercy, just as the Lord has shown us mercy. We received mercy in Jesus Christ before we knew we needed mercy. God showed us mercy before we were ever capable of asking for it; neither should we wait to show mercy until it is requested. Our behavior should become those who are judged by the law of liberty.
I hear in James’ instruction another echo from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount; “Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy (Mat 5:7).” The converse of this is that if we do not show mercy, then we shall feel only implacable judgment. This is not speaking of an eternal condemnation, but rather our experience in the kingdom of heaven here on earth. Actively showing divine compassion (mercy) through the leadership of the Holy Spirit exults over (rejoiceth against) condemnation (judgment). Like love, mercy is something we do, not just something we talk about. We are able to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God (Mic 6:8) because of the wondrous law of liberty found in the presence of Jesus Christ (2Co 3:17)!
May we honor the Giver of the law of liberty by treating others, without respect of persons, according to that same law and thus loving our neighbor as we love ourselves!