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Merciful Justice

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justice scalesEven though the news has been quiet lately, the words of “No Justice, No Peace” are still ringing in my ears.   I am proud to live in a country where citizens can fight for justice although I am saddened by the methods that are often used. They will bravely stand up against the darkness of injustice but hurt their cause when they revert to a mob mentality which ends in riots and looting. In listening to news reports and round table discussions, I was very interested to see where different folks draw the line between justice and injustice. I wondered where God draws that line. As complicated as the Bible may seem, it’s incredible how simple and direct it actually is. The biblical definition of justice is to “show mercy and compassion to one another” (Zech. 7:9).

I started to search the Scriptures for references to justice. I was looking specifically for clues to God’s justice and how that relates to mankind. What I found was so simple. God is just (Isaiah 30:18). In the same way that He is love and light, He is just and brings that justice to the nations (Isaiah 42:1,4).

God sets this extraordinary example of merciful justice early on. In the fourth chapter of Genesis we meet Cain and his brother Abel. Cain is jealous of his brother because Abel thought to bring God a better offering than he did. God first warns Cain of the danger that he is in. Ignoring the warning and giving in to his jealousy, Cain murders his brother. Now Cain must face God’s judgement. He is sent from God’s presence and condemned to be a restless wanderer for the rest of his life. As we follow Cain’s story, we see that not only will he live but his descendants will make meaningful contributions to mankind. His great, great, great, great grandsons include Jabal, who starts tradition of the herdsmen, Tubal-Cain, who forged metal tools and Jubal the first musician. That’s quite a legacy for a murderer.

In Cain’s story we see that God’s justice system is merciful and leads to the hope of restoration. Out of that restoration comes righteousness. Therefore, our righteousness is a direct result of God’s merciful justice.

“In God’s kingdom, justice is the measuring line and righteousness is the plumb line.”

Isaiah 28:17

Justice and righteousness are linked together and God will use both to build His kingdom.

“Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-ending stream.”

Amos 5:15

In much the same way that water will cover of a rocky river bed, God’s just nature corrects and forgives me as it swirls around the rocky, hardened, innermost places of my heart. The off shoot of that, is a stream of righteousness that covers over me.

Scripture describes true justice as being merciful and compassionate but I think that we all too often confuse justice with seeking revenge. Rather than letting justice, whether a personal sense of justice or a national justice system, lead to peace in volatile situations, we fall into the trap of using our sense of justice to exact payment for crimes without any chance of forgiveness. In today’s world, where so many lines are being blurred, it would be best to remember that Jesus called the peacemakers blessed. My search of God’s view of justice brought an unexpected view of a righteous life into focus. When God calls us to be just, He is calling us to a life that includes mercy, compassion and finding ways to extend peace to those around us.

“…to act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Micah 6:8

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One thought on “Merciful Justice

  1. Great piece. God’s lovingkindness is everlasting, and I think that He mostly wields His justice that way. Given that He is Just, and that we are simply exercising His nature when we try to apply justice, we should wield justice in the same way.

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