Justice or Mercy?

viaadmin Volume 38

Under police escort, the twelve-year-old girl shuffled into the courtroom. She was wearing shackles on her ankles. A couple of times while I listened to her short tragic history, she smirked at the police escort. My emotions were reeling!

This scene raises questions about our society: ‘Who are we?’ and ‘Where on earth have we gone wrong?’

The judge listened to the details very carefully, as she studied the accused. What should a good judge do with this problem? Ignore the suicide threats? Find a correctional facility willing to admit someone younger than thirteen, and sentence harshly? Or should a good judge gather this child into her arms and weep.

There is a deeper reason why I am so effected. I see myself in that twelve-year old and I see all of my peers in fallen  humanity. I know that we each stand alone before God. He is holy and He is just, and “shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25).

I saw the dilemma in that good judge’s eyes, but I didn’t see her step down from the bench and remove the girl’s shackles. Nobody expected her to do that. We expected that the outcome would be more just than merciful, or maybe too merciful and not enough justice. We expected to leave the courtroom feeling somewhat dissatisfied, but realizing that this was probably the best that could be done.

Conflict between the right thing and the nice thing is actually a big philosophical problem. We feel like ‘good’ should be both right and nice, but time after time that is impossible. We are frustrated because it seems like some part of goodness is compromised.

Yet I find that this problem poses no threat to the goodness of my Judge. His solution is described in John 1:17, “Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” As I stand guilty before the Judge of all the earth and, trembling, lift my gaze to His throne, I find that neither justice nor mercy is compromised. On the cross of the Lord Jesus is unflinching truth and perfect justice – because on His cross sin was punished. Yet on His cross is grace and wonderful mercy – because hanging there, He was taking my place.

Do you understand my wonder that this Judge is truly, peerlessly, good? The Judge of all the earth will do right; and for all those who continue to scorn His just offer of mercy, merciless justice must be His only good alternative. Do you sense the urgency?

Please receive His mercy today.

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