Verse: James 2:12-13 GNB
12 Speak and act as people who will be judged by the law that sets us free. 13 For God will not show mercy when he judges the person who has not been merciful; but mercy triumphs over judgement.

Devotion
When I first read the first verse, I was thinking about how I need to act but it was as if my speaking and acting was the first part of the equation. Upon further reflection (and you know, reading the first verse in connection to the second verse 😉) I realized, this is more about how we are reacting to others as opposed to how we choose to speak. I know that might seem like the same thing, but stick with me here. 

There was a season, that during disagreements with James (for those of you who don’t know, I’m referring to my husband, not the author of this book of the Bible!) it seemed like he always thought that I was trying to get in a dig, or belittle him, or be super negative. In reality, that wasn’t my actual intention. One night we sat down after this had been going on for a while and I asked him to choose to think the best of me and my intentions. As the person on this earth who is supposed to love him the most, as his wife, could he choose to think that I’m not always being negative, or criticizing? Could he choose to think the best of me? He agreed and I chose to do the same, and I can tell you it has made a world of difference for us!

I think this is the same thing James (the author, not my husband) is saying here. In our interactions with other humans, can you choose to think the best of them? Can you choose to believe that they aren’t the worst of humanity and they aren’t out to get you? And that sideways comment on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram wasn’t directly pointed at you to bring you down? Can you reserve your judgment and instead extend mercy? Mercy is compassion and kindness shown to someone whom you have it in your power to punish or harm. We choose to punish people with our words, with gossip, by withholding affection. Who does this really impact in the long run?

We judge people based on what we know from the outside, not from what we don’t see happening on the inside. There are a hundred variations of this meme out there, but I think it sums up these verses so well: “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.” That’s hard to live up to isn’t it? Be kind. Always. Always? Even when I’m having a bad day? Even when I’m frustrated? Even when the battle I’M fighting is overwhelming ME?! And God’s answer is yes, always. I think we often look at the things we’re facing, the hard, the unjust (yup, so talking to myself here) and we want to rail against those that we feel make the world this way. But that isn’t what God and James are calling us to – they are calling us to mercy – compassion and kindness – instead of judgement. Who is God calling you to treat with mercy instead of judgement today? Can you reach out in a small way with compassion and kindness?

Prayer
God, I pray that you will fill our hearts with your love for people, that your mercy will flow from us. You are the only one who can love completely and selflessly and I pray that you will show us how to best love those around us. I pray that you will open our eyes to those most in need of mercy and that you will allow us to be who the church is supposed to be, full of love, hope, mercy, kindness, compassion instead of the judgement we are often known for.  

Author: Candice Gifford