Saturday, July 26, 2014

On Justice and Mercy

by Bryan Neva and Allen Laudenslager

When I was younger, if someone harmed me I wanted to see them “pay the price”. Whether that was reimbursing me for a financial loss they caused or having their feelings hurt just as badly as they hurt mine. I wanted things to be fair and even. As I got older, I found that I too had hurt many other people. Some on purpose because of some supposed hurt they did to me and others I hurt as I blundered through life making the inevitable mistakes that being human cause.

No one can go through life without getting hurt by someone else.  In fact, if we’re really honest with ourselves, all of us at sometime have—intentionally or not—hurt someone else.  It’s just human nature.  And Oh do we love to complain to our confidants when someone else hurts us.  We’ll often hear the ol’ cliché, “what goes around comes around.”  In other words, the Buddhist teaching of karma will somehow balance everything out in the end, and hopefully our enemies will be reincarnated as cockroaches!

The whole world in general is crying out for justice and fairness. But if we rightfully demand justice in the world then justice demands we also accept it for ourselves.  As Christians, we believe that all of us will be held accountable by God for the way we lived our lives (good or bad). So justice is inevitable, but mercy is not.

Consider what Jesus taught on justice and mercy (excerpts from Matthew 5 - 7):

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy!  You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.’  But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment.  You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil.  But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.  Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you.  You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?  Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 

So if we want mercy from God then we must also be merciful to others. At my age, having had to go back and apologize and make amends for the mistakes I’ve made or the harm I've caused others, I much prefer mercy over justice.

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