Sunday, July 09, 2006

justic and mercy

I think after all that has happened I have come to understand the connection of justice and mercy a little more clearly. It's easy to see only the bad consequences of a wrong action because they are so obviously played out if a prison sentence is one of them. It is said in the scriptures that mercy triumphs over justice. I wondered to myself how anything could triumph over something so apparently punitive and final. The scriptures also say that God visits the sins of the father down to the 3rd and 4th generation, but pours out His lovingkindness on a thousand generations to those who fear Him. The Apostle Paul argued against doing wrong simply to be shown mercy, yet it seems to me the possibility of mercy exists a hundred fold over the law when a wrong choice is made. Famous literature is replete with examples of the generosity of mercy and its rich harvest in the face of retribution, yet it cannot exist without the law. I think the power of choice is intrinsically linked to justice and mercy, but mercy abounds when both a good choice and a bad one is made. Revenge is warned against, forgiveness commanded.

Still, it is often hard to show mercy without being aware of the shortcomings within ourselves. I think that is why it is hard to be merciful. Our pride craves justification. The motivation to exercise justice should be to show mercy. Self-righteousness has no place in the exercise of either, yet without both there is no restoration. Wrong-doing is only known by the law and demands repentence because of it. In the Beatitudes it is said that the merciful shall obtain mercy. Mercy multiplies mercy it its wake, and justice births its end. I think of the adultress who was to face her end with unyeilding stones. Jesus reminds her accusers that they live in glass houses. He set her free, and all those around him, with the truth, but that truth included the admonition to "sin no more".

To bring this into a practical light, I have seen the kindness of friends and strangers alike given in a situation that really deserves none. In the wake of this kindness and forgiveness poured out toward our family, restoration is happening in my son's life. He is where he needs to be, causing every act of mercy to contrast so starkly against the irreversible justice that holds him, like the grass that grows around the razor wire fence. It is a miracle every time I see it, and reminds me that God's Spirit is present wherever the law's demands bring about the death of certain things, His life abounds all the more. I know in spite of my son's sentence and because of it, mercy is triumphing over the justice in his life.


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