Justice and mercy

There are two major reasons why The LORD cannot simply forgive everyone. The first is this: understanding how much damage we have done to one another and to this universe through our rebellious attitudes towards Him, He is determined not to see it all happen again in His next creation. Secondly, how can He best express love towards people with conflicting interests? Take the simple situation of a murder victim’s family - would it be loving them to allow the murderer to go unpunished? Would a woman injured in a brutal attack feel loved if her attacker was given compensation whilst she was ignored?

Justice is not a concept invented by governments; it is something we all recognise deep within ourselves, although we often hope we will never have to meet its demands fully in our own lives. From petty pilfering at work to more obvious harm caused by words and actions, we all have skeletons we hope will be left undisturbed in numerous cupboards. Human nature is caught in a dilemma which seems impossible to resolve. We look for justice for ourselves when we are the injured party, or when we perceive others to be oppressed. At such times we look for those whom we say are in the wrong to be made to put things right. However, when we are the ones who have cheated others, when we have hurt a friend, when we have taken what doesn't belong to us, we find it very hard to demand that those whom we have injured receive justice. Not many accused plead guilty when they first appear in court and make a promise similar to the tax collector mentioned above, who said without prompting that he would give his victims four times more than he had taken from them!

The God of the Bible is a God of righteousness; He is committed to always doing the right thing. It is always right to make sure that the oppressed, the cheated, the murdered, those lied to and those stolen from receive justice. The problem is that we all have two accounts for justice - justice we are owed by others and justice we owe to others, including our Creator. Human nature always prefers to collect the debts we are owed far more than to settle the debts which we ourselves owe. Indeed, the reality is that when it comes to putting right the debts caused by our sins, none of us have the means to settle them. No matter how much He wants to simply forgive us, our Creator God cannot ignore the demands of justice; His righteousness cannot allow our wrongs to be swept out of sight under the carpet. He knows they have to be paid for in full.

If justice was on one side of a coin, then The LORD’s mercy is what would be on the other. Foreseeing the problem our sins would cause us by running up a debt of justice we could never afford to settle, our Creator’s righteousness would not let Him create us without having a remedy already available. He knew we would fail to love Him with all of our beings, but He would not turn His back on us. If freedom of choice was not to be overridden He had to stand back and allow each of us to dig ourselves into a hole, but He also committed Himself to making it possible for Him to be able to offer us a way out of that hole!

Next: Our debt can be settled!

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