Mercy and Justice

September 21, 2017

Arise, O God, defend your cause; remember how the foolish scoff at you all the day! Do not forget the clamor of your foes, the uproar of those who rise against you, which goes up continually! (Psalm 74:22-23)

Jesus is speaking from the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Jesus has just been condemned unjustly, beaten, and nailed to the cross. And He asks God to forgive the perpetrators.

In Psalm 74, Jerusalem has just been conquered by the Babylonians, with her temple destroyed, her God mocked, and her citizens murdered and raped. And the psalmist asks for God to honor His Name through implementing justice.

Are these inconsistent responses to evil?


Jesus Himself promises or calls for justice again and again:

“Will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them?  I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.” (Luke 18:7-8a)

“Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”– for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.” (Mark 3:28-30)

And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ (Mark 9:47-48)

We see similar calls for justice throughout the Bible, New Testament as well as Old Testament. Revelation even pictures martyrs rightly crying out for justice from the heavenly altar of God (Revelation 6:9-11). They are promised that justice will come.

  • God is a god of justice. Justice is central to His character. He must punish every wrong, and He will. We rightly call on God to display His character, to implement justice, when we are faced with evil.
  • And God is a god of mercy. Mercy is central to His character. We rightly call on God to have mercy, to show forgiveness to those who harm us personally.

How does God show both aspects of His character?

Mercy and justice come together at the Cross. Indeed, God planned the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of His Son in order that He might justly show mercy, in order that He might mercifully show justice (Romans 3:21-26).

In the end, there are only two categories of people: Those who deserve eternal punishment for their rebellion against God, and receive that punishment, all the while continuing in their rebellion; and those who deserve eternal punishment for their rebellion against God, whose punishment God the Father transfers to God the Son on the cross. United to Christ, forgiven in Him, having His Law written on their hearts, having received the gift of the Holy Spirit, they then delight in Him above all else and live to His glory.

So, yes, call out for justice. And come to the Father for mercy through the sacrifice of His Son. Do all this for the glory of God.



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