Friday, July 08, 2005

Justice, Mercy, and Grace

Justice is getting what we deserve.
Mercy is not getting what we deserve.
Grace is getting what we don't deserve

The topics of Justice, Grace, and Mercy have been repeating themes in our study of The Recovering Pharisee. These are words that we hear a lot at church, so we just assume that we know what they mean. They all three have distinct meanings, and they are all critical if we are to understand where we were and where we are now in Christ.

Justice is getting what we deserve. WE DON'T WANT THIS. The wages of sin is death. If we look at it from a human perspective, this puts God in a bind. He loves us, but at the same time we have sinned against God, who is perfect and holy. He cannot ignore our sins, or he would not be perfectly just. He would also not be holy, because he has allowed sin to go unpunished.

Mercy is not getting what we deserve. WE LIKE THIS. Since we deserve death and eternal separation from God, it is by God's mercy that we are not separated from Him. When I think of mercy, I think of someone standing before a judge or jury waiting to see if he is going to get the death penalty. He may cry out and beg for mercy.

Grace is getting what we don't deserve. WE REALLY LIKE THIS. If you think about justice and mercy, they seem to contradict each other. If God is just, he can't show us mercy, or he wouldn't be just. If God is merciful, he can't show justice, or he wouldn't be merciful. God made a way for these two characteristics to "live together."

By his grace, God came to earth as a man. He allowed men to torture and kill Him on the cross, but that is not all that happened. When he was on the cross, God poured out his wrath and punished his own son, who did nothing wrong, for the sins that we committed. It allowed God to remain just, because the penalty for our sin was paid. It also allowed God to be able to show us His love and mercy.

When I think of grace, I think of the same man standing before the judge begging for mercy. I can hear the judge setence the man to death. The rest of the analogy is unrealistic, but it gets the point across. The father of the little girl he murdered stands up and says: "You honor, I know that you just sentenced this man to death. I know that someone must die to pay for the vicious crime that this man committed. I would like to be placed on death row so that this man can go free."

Like I said, the analogy is pretty unrealistic, but it is also pretty unrealistic to think that God would love us enough to pay the penalty of sin that we deserve so that we can be set free.


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