Justice, Mercy, or Both?

Look around. Listen to the politicians. Read the headlines. Talk to your neighbors and coworkers. It won’t take long before two themes emerge.

Justice and mercy. But rarely do these two words occur in the same sentence, or even in the same conversation.

There’s a lot of talk about justice. Criminal justice. Social justice. We have a keenly developed sense of what we think is right and wrong. We demand justice for ourselves and for those who need us to stand up for them.

Problem is, we can’t seem to agree on what justice looks like in every situation. What does justice look like for illegal immigrants? Or for babies developing in the womb?

It all depends on our worldview and the values we espouse. But if we’re honest, we have to admit that even if we hold a biblical worldview, we fall short in executing righteous judgment. Because there’s only one righteous Judge.

Then there’s the subject of mercy. I was challenged this week from the Beatitudes to consider what it means to be merciful. “Blessed are the merciful…”

Mercy.

I love the sound of this word when it applies to me. Who doesn’t want to receive mercy? On the other hand, not many of us want to extend mercy.

Most people, myself included, prefer to hand out judgment. You’ve wronged me? I want you to receive the consequences of your actions. My natural inclination is not toward mercy…unless I am the recipient.

Still, there’s at least one Bible verse that includes both concepts, justice and mercy, in the same sentence.

Micah 6:8 (NIV) tells us:

“What does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

We’re to act justly. Not demand judgment, but act with justice. Consider the other person’s circumstances and respond with justice, despite our own opinions or preferences.

We’re to love mercy. Interesting, it doesn’t say extend mercy. It says we’re to love it. Some translations use the word kindness instead of mercy. Because mercy is meaningless if it isn’t demonstrated in a tangible way.

But there’s a third part: “Walk humbly with your God.” In many ways, this is the most important phrase in the verse—the phrase that ties it all together. If we have a right view of ourselves in relation to the God we belong to, then justice and mercy will flow out of our relationship in Christ, prompted by the Holy Spirit who indwells us. Will we be perfect in our execution? Not even close. But we’ll be moving in the right direction.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Still, there’s a hitch. The verse begins by saying this is God’s requirement for us. And the fact that it’s a requirement tells us it doesn’t come naturally. For if acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God flowed naturally, we wouldn’t have to be commanded to do it.

They’re not natural. They are intentional choices.

And perhaps, before we take on the problems of the world, we need to start closer to home. With our spouses and children. Our family and friends. The people we work with Monday through Friday and the people we worship with on Sundays.

What would life look like if we really did—intentionally—act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God?

Let’s find out!


Faith and Consistency

Do you believe in gravity? Do you believe in electricity?

Of course you do. So do I. And we prove our belief every time we take a step or turn on a light.

But when it comes to biblical truth and spiritual matters, our beliefs don’t always translate into actions. And I confess to being as guilty of this as anyone else.

The reality is that I often fail to live in accordance with what I claim to believe.

  • I claim I trust God as my heavenly Father…then I worry.
  • I say God is worthy of sacrificial service…then I pick and choose the most convenient way to serve Him.
  • Or I declare my gratitude for forgiveness found in Jesus Christ…then I withhold forgiveness from those who have offended me.

Funny thing is, many who claim to not believe in God sometimes live as if they do!

  • They ask for prayer when tragedy strikes, even though they claim to not believe.
  • They express gratitude for the good things in life, but refuse to thank the Giver.
  • Or they hold to a moral code of right and wrong (e.g. stealing and lying are both wrong), while denying the Source of that moral code.

Many Christians often surrender to fear that keeps us from living what we claim to believe. For example, we say we trust God, but we’re afraid when He works in our life for our good, the “good” will be like medicine: helpful, but it tastes terrible.

We worry God’s definition of good differs from ours. We define “good” as pleasant, comfortable, and convenient. But God defines good as that which accomplishes His purposes for us. And His purposes are usually related to stretching us out of our comfort zone and growing us beyond our convenience.

We say we want an eternal focus, but we’re consumed with making this temporary life as comfortable as possible.

So what’s the key to consistent living?

1. Start with prayer:

  • Sometimes we want to change, but need the Holy Spirit’s help to do it. Other times we need the Holy Spirit’s help to give us even the desire to change! Ask the Lord to give you the desire and the ability to live consistent with what you claim to believe.

2. Maintain an eternal focus:

  • Our broken world aches from the consequences of sin. And just as creation groans under the burden of sin (Romans 8:22), we also groan. But I wonder if part of our groaning is because our focus causes us to behave as if this world is all there is.
  • There’s a better world coming. Our best life is not now. Our best life is yet to come. This world is nothing more than a glorified bus station…and we’re all in transit.

3. Take a step of faith:

  • Just as we manifest faith when we flip a light switch, we manifest our faith in God by placing our full confidence in Him and His promises. I can claim a chair will hold me, but never actually sit in it. Or I can place my full weight in the chair as a demonstration of faith in what I claimed.
  • What “chair” is waiting for you to demonstrate your faith? Is it the chair of trust? Sacrificial giving? Service? In what area do you need to step out in faith, knowing God has already proven Himself trustworthy?

4. Do it again:

  • Don’t stop with one step. Take another. And another. Studies confirm it takes more than two months to form a new habit. It could take even longer, depending on the old habit you’re trying to replace (Philippians 4:9).

The key is not doing it in our own strength. This is not about trying harder, working smarter, and doing better. This is about depending on the Holy Spirit for the power to say no—or yes—as the situation requires. And to do it day by day, hour by hour, and sometimes even minute by minute.

Do you desire to live consistent with the faith you claim to have? It’s rarely convenient. But you’ll find yourself on a faith journey that will exceed your greatest expectations.


Does God Ever Forget?
Does God forget sin?

Anyone other than me find themselves becoming a little more forgetful as they get older?

It happens, doesn’t it? The same weakness we saw in our parents and grandparents (and chuckled at!) is now showing up in us. And if you haven’t experienced this yet, no worries…it will happen!

Forgetfulness. It’s a human foible. But is it one God shares with us?

Some people say yes. They say God forgets our sin because of the forgiveness we have in Jesus. They cite verses such as:

  • “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” ~ Isaiah 43:25
  • “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” ~ Hebrews 8:12
  • “Then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” ~ Hebrews 10:17

But is not remembering the same as forgetting? Maybe for people, but not for God. God is not like a doddering old grandfather with a faulty memory.

Whenever the Bible refers to God remembering, it has nothing to do with a poor memory. He is perfect and omniscient—He knows everything.

When the Bible says God remembers, it means God is ready to act.

Consider these examples of verses that talk about God remembering:

  • “But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided.” ~ Genesis 8:1
  • “Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.” ~ Genesis 30:22
  • “And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.” ~ Exodus 2:24

So when God “forgets” our sin, it means He will not act on them. He will not hold them against us. He will not pour His wrath on us. And He will not judge and condemn us.

Why? Because Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath so we would not have to.

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” ~ Romans 5:8-9

When God “blots out our sins” He covers them with His Son’s blood, sacrificed for us. He doesn’t forget our sin. How could He? If He “forgot” our sin, then He’d have to forget the reason for Jesus’s sacrificial death.

An infinite, perfect, omniscient God forgets nothing.

A holy, righteous, just God requires payment for sin.

And a merciful, compassionate, and gracious God provides that payment.

The result is that there is now no sin for Him to act on—to “remember”—because everything that needed to be done was done at the Cross.

Those who put their full faith and trust in Christ are clean in God’s sight…as clean as His Son, Jesus.

That’s why King David could say with confidence in Psalm 18:20-24:

“The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness;
    according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me.
For I have kept the ways of the Lord,
    and have not wickedly departed from my God.
For all his rules were before me,
    and his statutes I did not put away from me.
I was blameless before him,
    and I kept myself from my guilt.
So the Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
    according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.”

Despite all his sin, David knew, in God’s sight, he was righteous. And Christians can say the same thing.

It’s all about amazing grace. Intentional grace. Grace that provides a right standing before God even though we don’t deserve it. Grace that enables us to say with David, I’m righteous in His sight.

Not forgetfulness. Grace.

May we never confuse them.

*All verses are quoted from the English Standard Version (ESV).


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