Links Daily Devotional

Justice and Mercy

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1:3, NIV 1984)

If you are one of those who struggle with their golf swing, you may get the feeling some days that your right hand and your left hand are at war with one another. Neither is sure who takes the lead, so they both do their own thing—and the clubface almost never finds square!

In the same way, as you read your Bible and discuss your faith walk with others on the same road, you may wonder how to balance aspects of Christian living. And this becomes an even greater challenge when you’re trying to walk that walk among those who don’t believe at all, especially those who are contentious about what you believe. These latter folks, especially, seem to camp on the opposing side—whatever it may be—and dare you to stand firm in your own positions.

One such battle line comes over the apparent paradox of God’s justice and his mercy. How can the God who demands obedience and dispenses discipline be the same God who draws the adulterer out from under the stones of her accuser, the same God whose dominant New Covenant keywords are “forgiveness” and “grace?”

The death and resurrection of Jesus go all the way in pointing us to the mergence of these two ideas.

Likely you have heard the teaching more than once of the necessary atonement required for the remission of sin (that is, the dismissal of the guilt laid upon us because of those sins). Throughout the Old Testament, sin offerings required the shedding of blood. Biblically speaking, blood provides atonement. More closely, the blood of an unblemished animal provided that atonement. But only temporarily. Until Jesus. When Jesus came, the writer of Hebrews explained, his unblemished life followed by his blood-shedding death provided a lasting atonement, a “once for all” forgiveness. Here was justice—the required penalty being paid—meeting mercy. Not one. Both.

But further still, we are invited into God’s eternal presence by the resurrection of Jesus. In that resurrection, the fullness of mercy was delivered. Jesus covered sin; Jesus provided life. Not only are your sins forgiven in Jesus, but you may enter eternity through his righteousness. This is God’s mercy, available because the demands of justice have been met.

God is not a God of justice one minute and a God of mercy the next. He is always both. And while the apparent tension of those bound characteristics may bother you and me, God is, dare we say, “perfectly comfortable in his own skin.”

A God-honoring life may include big questions for him. But if we profess to start with the truth that he is well out ahead of us, sometimes we do best to look closely at who he is and trust all that we find of him. Maybe the reason he can so beautifully execute both justice and mercy is that he is so much bigger than we are!

Jeff Hopper

May 14, 2012

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