Christian Questions Bible Podcast
MERCY or JUSTICE? We often see them as opposites. When someone does something particularly bad we want justice in its harshest and most direct form to be there waiting for them. We tend to see justice as hard but righteous punishment reserved for those who we feel deserve it. Mercy is perceived differently. Often when we think of being merciful, there is a sense of pity or compassion, because we want it applied to those who we feel deserve “a break.” The problem? Too often our thinking and actions regarding justice and mercy are based on our emotional reaction to the situation at hand. Too often we misrepresent what justice really means and how mercy really works. The good news is that God has given us all of the necessary guidelines to not only define but to live by just thinking and merciful response.
Mercy or justice? Clearly defining them begins with understanding and accepting a purely God-centered approach. To know how these work in the hands of God will tell us how they should work in our hands. Getting there requires us to back out of all the powerful and layered emotions we generally and carelessly attach to each attribute. Let’s begin with God’s impartiality. It is clean. It operates on a level far above the knee-jerk reactions that so often and so easily become embedded in our judgment. How do we know? We can only see His integrity when we connect what He did in Bible times to what we know about His motives and plan. It is far too easy to drop in on any Old Testament scenario, see God’s proclamations of anger or destruction and announce to the world how unfair or dishonorable He is. This assessment of ours is in and of itself unjust, for it does not know all the facts. You and I don’t want to be judged without all of the facts, so why would we do that to God?
Figuring mercy out requires the same “big thinking” approach. Observing and grasping God’s intentions and foresight will teach us a universal truth about His mercy. God’s mercy is a result of His justice. It is not a watering down or a reversal or a coping out of judgment. God’s benevolence is the intended outcome of His just and honorable actions. Simply stated, His justice is restorative and therefore merciful. It is in place to not only provide consequences for wrong actions, but to teach the wrongdoer how to become righteous.
If this is the case. then we should want our clemency and goodwill to grow out of such high standards of justice. So, how do we do that and how do we confirm these aforementioned biblical principles of God’s character? Check out our April 30, 2018 podcast, “Is Mercy Compatible With Justice?” We establish the biblical evidence of God’s very first actions of restorative justice on behalf humanity. With that in place we then go through the process of taking our own thoughts and actions relating to justice and mercy to a higher place. God doesn't choose between mercy or justice - they work together.