Friday, September 26, 2008

Mercy and Justice - best when served together

Sheila over at To Love Honor and Vacuum was talking about mercy and justice earlier this week. She mentioned a personality test where you have to answer whether you like mercy or justice better. I've been thinking about this because I couldn't decide which way I would answer. After much consideration, I've come to the realization that I can't choose only one because either one without the other is unloving.

I tend to see the best in people and like giving them second (and third and fourth...) chances. And mercy is, at first glance, the more loving choice. So it should be an easy choice.

The quality of mercy is not strain'd,

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes. --Shakespeare

However, as C.S. Lewis put it, "Mercy, detached from Justice, grows unmerciful."

Injustice really aggravates my spirit, even when it does not harm or even affect me in any direct way. Why is that? God is Just. God is Merciful. So the two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I believe they are inextricably linked. Here's what George MacDonald has to say about it:

Such is the mercy of God that he will hold his children in the consuming fire of his distance until they pay the utmost farthing, until they drop the purse of selfishness with all the dross that is in it, and rush home to the Father and to the Son and the brethren—rush inside the life-giving Fire whose outer circle burns.

Justice without mercy is severe and cold and leaves no room for hope. But mercy without justice is equally...wrong. If mercy alone was enough, there was no point for Jesus to die on the cross.

This was a rather rambling post, and I'm still thinking about this subject. But my blogging time is up for the day, so have a great weekend! And let me know what you think.


  1. I think that you hit the nail on the head! Justice is something that is important to me, something just stuck in my soul. However, I tend to only look at the situation from the person in pain's perspective. Mercy is that which should drive me to look at all sides and produce the response then. As a parent we know that mercy can easily turn into enabling. Just some ideas.

  2. I don't think one can really think long about one apart from the other. A poem in the Psalms contains these words: "Mercy and loving-kindness and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other". I have always associated these words with the Cross. I also think of what the prophet wrote, "And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." I guess I would have to say I love mercy more because I can't imagine justice toward myself with out it, but I am also unable to think about mercy apart from justice. Doesn't justice make mercy possible? Thank you for this post.

    Sam AKA Dad

  3. Let me add this. I think the book Exclusion and Embrace by Miroslav Volf makes, I think, a vital contribution to the literature concerned with forgiveness, mercy, reconciliation and justice. Another book I thought of when I was thinking about what you wrote in your blog entry is Scot McKnight's A Community Called Atonement. It brings together what the Fathers and Mothers of our faith have believed about the Atonement. The result is a beautiful mosaic, a wide and deep picture of God's love for us.

    AKA Dad

  4. Thanks for the insightful comments, Ruth and Dad. I'll try to post a reply with some of my further thoughts on the topic later today, but I may not get to it until tomorrow. I appreciate the input!!