If, on the way to court, you received advice on how you could influence the judge to be less severe in your case, would you not consider following that advice? Surely you would, unless the “way” involved bribery, or something corrupt.
And in fact Jesus, our very judge, has described an upright way that we can avoid severity on the Day of Judgment. Simply put, the way is for us to show mercy.
Now I don’t know about you, but I am going to need a lot of mercy on the Day of Judgment. So I, and probably you as well, am glad that the Lord has shown how we can positively influence the Day we are judged and see that mercy is magnified. Consider some of the following texts:
- Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. (Matt 5:7)
- For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matt 6:14-15)
- Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. But mercy triumphs over judgment! (James 2:12-13)
- If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered. (Proverbs 21:13)
- Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. (Luke 6:37)
- For the measure with which you measure others, will be the measure by which you are measured (Mark 4:24)
- And then there is the terrifying parable too long to quote here of the man who owed a huge debt he could never repay. The king cancelled the whole debt. But the man refused to cancel the debt of one who owed him a smaller amount. To this unmerciful man the King then decreed: You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matt 18:32-35)
So the basic point is clear enough: if we want to be shown mercy in our judgment (and trust me, we’re all going to need a LOT of it), then we need to pray for a merciful heart.
Let’s go so far as to say that if anyone is harsh, mean-spirited, unforgiving, hypercritical, or condemning, he is a fool. He is simply storing up wrath for himself on the Day of Judgment. Now why do that?
Mercy is our only hope of avoiding strict judgment. And these texts show us that mercy here will lead to mercy there.
It is true that there are times in this world when punishments must be issued and penalties assessed. But to the degree that these are made with an eye to correction and reform, they are part of love, and relate to mercy. For fraternal correction is a work of charity. It is better to suffer punishment here that leads to reform, than to evade punishment here and possibly end in hell. Thus, not all punishment is excluded by the edict of mercy, but, only let mercy and love be the sources from which it comes.
So, some advice to the wise: bury the hatchet now. Ask the Lord for a merciful and forgiving heart, or suffer the full force of a strict judgment. Pay attention! The judge is willing to be influenced on our behalf and has signaled what will move him in our direction. Why hesitate any longer? The merciful are blessed because they are going to be shown mercy. And without mercy, we don’t stand a chance.
Here is the great Miserere by Allegri. The text, sung in Latin is Psalm 51 which begins, “Have Mercy on me Lord in your great mercy.”