Post by Pastor Tim – In Micah 6:8, justice goes hand in hand with the attitude of mercy. It says, “He has showed you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
TheInternational Standard Bible Encyclopedia says,
The Scriptures most often conceive God’s justice, or righteousness, as the action of His mercy. Just as with man justice means the relief of the oppressed and needy, so God’s justice is His kingly power engaged on behalf of men, and justice and mercy are constantly joined together. He is “a just God and a Savior” (Isa 45:21). “I bring near my righteousness (or “justice”) …. and my salvation shall not tarry” (Isa 46:13).”
Justice and mercy not only go hand in hand, but mercy is the attitude that animates justice.
Jonah is a great example of justice without the attitude of mercy. In Jonah 4, Jonah is chided by God for pitying a plant, instead of pitying human beings. Jonah was most interested in the Ninevites being shown judgment, but he was not so interested in any mercy that God would give.
This is further amplified by stories like Les Miserables (which I love by the way), in which the policeman Javert, exercises strict justice without so much of a hint of mercy. As readers, we are almost left to feel that Javert’s mercy-lacking justice borders on injustice!
This idea permeates the Old Testament with justice being tied to a special concern for the poor and the vulnerable in as far as it relates to their God-given rights (for a good explanation on these rights see the book In the Shadow of the Cross). Passages like Jeremiah 5:27-28, Psalm 146:7-10 and Amos 2:6-7 show God’s justice towards these groups, but Psalm 68:5 gives us a picture of the attitude of justice. It says, “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” Not only does God care about the orphan and the widow, but he identifies with them.
For my children, wanting justice when they are wronged comes much more easily than feeling mercy when others are exclude. That’s why my wife and I encourage them to seek out the other kids in school who don’t have many friends. I tell them to talk with them, to eat lunch with them and to defend them. My wife and I are also extremely careful about how we model our attitudes towards the elderly, the homeless, and those that are generally different than us. Our children soak up our words, our actions, and our feelings, and we don’t want them to see attitudes of indifference or superiority.
As a church, we are studying the Work of Mercy of doing good, and I’m reminded how foundational the attitude of mercy is to doing good. This seems rather obvious, but what might not be so obvious is that mercy is equally foundational to Biblical justice.
The most important picture of the action of justice with the attitude of mercy is Jesus on the cross. At the cross, salvation, mercy, justice and doing good meet without a hint of disagreement or separation (Isaiah 53:4-5).