By Tammy Darling
When justice and mercy kiss, it doesn’t always look proper in the eyes of the world. God told Hosea to marry a prostitute. It seems strange that God would have Hosea do such a thing, but when we dig deeper, a beautiful picture of the kiss of justice and mercy is revealed.
Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus saw that justice and mercy kissed. The critical personal needs of others were a prominent concern of Jesus, as was evident in the way he transcended social, racial, and economic barriers. Society’s rules and regulations did not prevent him from administering justice and mercy.
Justice for All
Whether people are suffering due to injustice or because of their own sin, God cares. And because God cares, we should care.
It’s relatively easy to help those who suffer from injustice. It evokes our sense of fairness; we want to see justice done. Our society perceives itself as tolerant and “politically correct,” and yet daily we encounter racial prejudice, poverty bias, and the marginalization of the disabled and elderly.
We cannot spiritualize the gospel and then deny its social implications. We need only to turn to Amos 5 to hear God tell how much more important social justice is than our precise observance of religious ritual.
We hear about orphans in Romania and learn about the AIDS crisis in Africa on the news, and we may be slightly bothered—but not enough to see that justice and mercy have a divine meeting. Oh, we may point to laws and regulations, but really, isn’t that just an excuse?
Jesus never let such things get in his way of administering justice and mercy. If we are truly moved by the injustices of the world, we will seek to set things right no matter how difficult it may be.
What Is Justice?
When we think about justice we may visualize the blindfolded woman holding a scale (often with a sword in her other hand)—an image that suggests each person should get his “fair share” and the scales should be balanced. The picture the Bible paints in Amos, however, compares justice to an ever-flowing river, a never-failing stream.
In God’s eyes the rivers of justice and righteousness should flow down continually toward rich and poor. This is quite a different picture of justice than society paints for us.
The Old Testament prophet Zechariah gives us a glimpse of how true justice is expressed. “Administer true judgment; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow, or the fatherless, the foreigner, or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other” (Zechariah 7:9, 10). In essence, justice and mercy see the need and meet it.
Thomas Aquinas is credited with saying that mercy does not destroy justice, but is a fulfillment of justice. The two are not contradictory, nor should one be absent from the other.
It’s not so easy however, to help those who are suffering because of their own choices. I know a person who is in the process of divorce, has just lost his house, and has no job—primarily because of the choices he has made and continues to make. Situations like his make it difficult for me to act justly and show mercy.
I know I should help him, but everything within me wants to shout, “But he doesn’t deserve it!” And yet, that’s precisely the point. He doesn’t deserve it; none of us does.
It is for that reason I am determined to help him. Our family has decided we won’t give him a handout, because we know it would be spent quickly and foolishly. We will help in more practical ways though, such as with his laundry, food, and vehicle maintenance. My husband, who sees this man frequently, speaks to him about God whenever an opportunity presents itself.
The Right Medicine
Executing justice on behalf of those God loves is a bit like taking the right medicine—it may be more helpful than comfortable. Helping others isn’t about our comfort level; it’s about manifesting God’s heart to others.
If I have a fever, taking cough medicine will do me little good. I need a fever reducer. The right medicine makes all the difference.
Justice, too, requires the right “medicine.” We can’t simply put a bandage on society’s problems and think everything will be okay.
It’s good to give a homeless man a meal (the equivalent of a bandage), but what he really needs is long-term help getting back on his feet: a place to stay, daily meals, job training, and so on. This is “the right medicine” for executing justice.
I recently toured Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. The tour guide reminded me of something I once read concerning Jefferson and his ownership of slaves. Jefferson openly and consistently condemned slavery and yet he owned as many as 200 slaves at one time, stating that abolishing slavery was for another president in another generation.
Thomas Jefferson knew slavery was wrong, but that knowledge didn’t move him to “do justly and love mercy” as Scripture instructs (see Micah 6:8). We, too, can know justice isn’t being administered and yet do nothing about it.
Justice is not a matter for the government alone. When we know the good we ought to do but fail to do it, we sin (see James 4:17).
We believe our faith should make a difference—that we should be able to connect our spiritual life with the concrete issues that surround us in the world. But many of us struggle to turn our belief into active reality.
The government can—and should—do only so much. Millions of dollars are spent on programs that produce little results. Without Christ, true justice will never happen. Only Christ can forgive sin, heal broken hearts, and set captives free.
The government is not called to act justly and love mercy—we are (see Micah 6:8). It is our responsibility to actively work for God’s justice in our individual spheres of influence.
Sometimes we may think the problem is too big and so we do nothing. But if everyone did his part, injustice would be eradicated.
Consider this statistic: Seven of the wealthiest people in the world could wipe out world hunger. That being the case, just imagine what two billion Christians could do—if we were willing.
We may believe we don’t have the funds needed to make a difference, but it’s often simply a matter of making sacrifices. For example, skipping lunch out one day a week would give you enough money to sponsor a child on a monthly basis through a Christian organization like World Vision or Compassion International. By choosing water instead of a latte every other day you could provide funds for clean drinking water to impoverished communities.
Ten dollars can provide a month’s worth of medicine in a Third World country. More than 6,000 Africans die every day from preventable, treatable diseases because they lack the kinds of medications we can buy at any drug store. This isn’t about charity; it’s about justice.
It’s not enough to give money or food to the poor. We must work to see that they get the education and training required to prosper and to see that they are not kept in poverty through the unjust actions of others.
Speak up for justice by campaigning for godly political candidates and by making your concerns about religious freedom in public schools known to local school boards.
We can influence social policy through our voting, being involved in politics, forming public interest groups, serving in government, and participating in lawful demonstrations.
Take what you’re passionate about into your city, your church, or even other nations. Working for justice must become a lifestyle in order for it to make a lasting impact.
Purposefully consider each day what you can do to promote justice. Nothing is too small to make a difference in the life of another person.
Theodore Roosevelt said, “Justice consists not in being neutral between right and wrong, but in finding out the right and upholding it, wherever found, against the wrong.”
When we concern ourselves with the needs of others, we bring the fragrant aroma of Christ to a world in desperate need.
When justice and mercy kiss, the blind man receives sight—even on the Sabbath. When justice and mercy come together, there is light in the midst of darkness, purity in the midst of corruption.
Tammy Darling is a freelance writer in Three Springs, Pennsylvania.
The Hole in Our Gospel
by Richard Stearns
(Thomas Nelson, 2010)
With Justice for All: A Strategy for Community Development
by John Perkins
(Gospel Light, 2011)
Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices
by Julie Clawson
(IVP Books, 2009)
Generous Justice: Finding Grace in God Through Practicing Justice
by Timothy Keller
(Dutton Adult, 2010)
Good Questions on Right & Wrong
(Standard Publishing, 2011)
Item #: 021556610
Good News About Injustice: A Witness of Courage in a Hurting World
by Gary A. Haugen
(IVP Books, 2009)