“Mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2:17

Which is greater for the Christian to reflect; mercy, or judgment? There are times when judgment seems appropriate. When Christian values and beliefs are attacked, it seems expected that true believers will stand for godly principles.

Other times, mercy seems appropriate. When friends look for forgiveness and a second chance, true believers will be patient and compassionate with those who struggle.

One might think of mercy and judgment as incompatible and opposite. How can a person who pushes mercy, reflect judgment on an issue? On the other hand, how can a person who stands against an issue reflect mercy? It seems hypocritical to attempt to reflect both mercy and judgment.

However, we see both mercy and judgment come from God. He is never arbitrary in His response. But God uses discretion in which response is offered to us.

An illustration of swimming in a swift stream may show how mercy and judgment go together. If a swimmer desires to swim downstream, “with the current,” the swim will seem easy and the progress will come quickly. The stream will help the progress and the swimmer will feel like the stream has been merciful to his efforts.

If the swimmer desires to swim upstream, “against the current,” the swim will seem difficult and the progress will seem impossible. The stream will impede the progress and the swimmer will feel like the stream stands against his efforts.

But a closer look will see the stream is consistent. It flows downhill. The difference between mercy and judgment is whether the swimmer is going with the stream or against it. All the stream does is identify the intent of the heart of the swimmer.

When it comes to our life, we want to see that having a heart for God’s way will allow us to experience mercy. Having a heart contrary to God’s way will allow us to experience judgment. Like the swimmer, all of us will find us experiencing the movement of God. The question is whether that experience will be pleasant or punitive.

A final lesson to learn from the stream. Swimming with the stream makes much better progress with much less effort. Focus on God’s mercy and go that way. When you do, mercy will be the way you aim toward others and what you will experience from God.

See you downstream!

Bro. John A. Temple is pastor of Poplar Springs Drive Baptist Church, 4032 Poplar Springs Drive, Meridian. Visit the church website at www.psdbc.org. From the Shepherd's Heart is published Fridays in The Meridian Star.

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