The Justice and Mercy Within


Believer or not, we all have a sense of Justice and Mercy. I have yet to meet a child that has not said "That is not fair" nor is there a parent that has not responded "Life is not fair". From a very early age we have an inate sense that life is intended to be just.

When I reflect on where I am in my spiritual journey, I often recall a time many years ago when I got on my knees in prayer, angry and confused saying something like:

"God, I know you are there. I need you, I want you in my life but I do not believe that you are the judgmental and damning god as so many say you are, and if you are - I will not follow you. I want a relationship with you and I believe that you want a relationship with me. I throw away all the dogma I have learned and seek a relationship with you. A one on one relationship between you and I - let's start over."

This was one of the most uncomfortable prayers I have yet to pray but it was also one of the most genuine. I told God that I did not believe a significant tenant that most churches teach.

As I prayed I felt as though I might be forever damning myself to hell, but at the same time I felt as though I was freeing myself from false teachings that went against my own spiritual experiences of a merciful God.  

There is a powerful talk by Brad Wilcox titled "His Grace is Sufficient". It is in this talk that I heard a theological viewpoint that matched my experience:

"In the past I had a picture in my mind of what the final judgement would be like, and it went something like this: Jesus standing there with a clipboard and Brad standing on the other side of the room nervously looking at Jesus.

Jesus checks His clipboard and says, "Oh, shoot, Brad. You missed it by two points."Brad begs Jesus, "Please, check the essay question one more time! There have to be two points you can squeeze out of that essay." That's how I always saw it. 

But the older I get, and the more I understand this wonderful plan of redemption, the more I realize that in the final judgement it will not be the unrepentant sinner begging Jesus, "Let me stay." No, he will probably be saying, "Get me out of here". knowing Christ's character, I believe that if anyone is going to be begging on that occasion, it would probably be Jesus begging the unrepentant sinner, "Please, choose to stay,..."

When I first started on my Inner-City mission I was confronted with all types of challenges, both in my own perspectives and learning the perspectives of those I serve. I have come to see that those I serve are my teachers. 

One person in particular had been a great challenge. The challenge was in my perspective of myself and my own tenancies to judge others when I do not understand. This person had a fairly serious open warrant that they had had for years. After working with them for months it was obvious to me that there could be no real progression in their life until the warrant was taken care of and put behind them. It was frustrating to me because no matter what I did to help the person progress progression was just not possible. 

I recall thinking to myself; "If you will just surrender to the warrant and meet the demands of justice you can get on with your life afterwards." 

As I had this thought - demanding justice, I looked where I was. I was in a small hotel room where 5 people and two dogs were all trying to live. Clothes, food and the necessaries of life scattered all around and not a smile to be seen. It was in this moment that I realized that the demands of justice were, in an tangible and obscure way, being met. I realized that this person was 'paying' for their crime. That they has put them self in a sort of prison. They had judged and sentenced them self already. The demands of the state had not been met, but a self imposed sentence was being carried out regardless. 

How often do we do the same? How often do we judge and sentence ourselves without mercy. Who can be a harsher judge and jury than our own self?

Each time I visit the Conference Center I make time to view the painting pictured above. In it a repentant sinner is seeking mercy who reaches out for him, while justice stands watching, sword in hand. When I first viewed this image I saw three persons. The sinner, mercy and justice - now I only see one, I am all three. I am the sinner, I am also my judge with the capacity for mercy. 

Ultimately it is the mercy of our Savior, Jesus Christ that allows us to escape the ultimate justice we deserve, but we can never accept that mercy if we do not first release our selves from our own judgment and find, through faith, mercy within. 

Both mercy and justice live within us all.

When the day comes and as we face all the actions of our lives, we will either be free to use the mercy offered because we have first found the mercy within, or we will run from perfection as all we know is the judgement imposed upon ourselves by ourselves. 

While reading Mosiah I came to understand that both justice and mercy reside within me - that we must meet our own demands for our own justice and that this can only be accomplished when we understand and have faith in His mercy.

Mosiah 2:38 "Therefore if that man repenteth not, and remaieth and dieth an enemy to God, the demands of divine justice do awaken his immortal soul to a lively sense of his own guilt, which doth fill his breast with guilt, and pain, and anguish, which is like an unquenchable fire, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever." 

The application of the Atonement begins with our own mercy that releases us from our own judgement. To quote Brad Wilcox: 

"The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can go home but that - miraculously - we can feel at home there."
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