If only you shape your own path and build up peace, you shall see no end to mercy.
- The Advice of Addaon, Early Welsh
“Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.”
- Matthew 5.7
Justice, mercy, grace: three words we use a good deal in the Christian community, each of which has a distinct meaning and impact.
Yet none of which do we understand as well as we should.
Justice can be summarized as getting what you deserve. On the one hand, because we are the image-bearers of God, all humans deserve respect, honor, love, encouragement, and so forth, and especially, to know God, in Whose image and for Whom we are created.
On the other hand, because we are sinners, justice means that we deserve wrath and judgment from our sovereign and holy God. These are the proper desserts of those who walk in rebellion against Him, denying that He is their Creator, ignoring His Law, or rationalizing it out of their Christian lives. The enemies of God all deserve such justice (Rom. 5.10).
Justice is what we deserve, and, for both aspects of justice, Jesus fulfills what we are due. He restores the image of God in us, and brings us into the knowledge of God which is eternal life; and He absorbed the wrath we deserve, so that we can know and flourish within the justice of God, without fear.
Thank God for His justice and for all the ways we benefit from it.
If justice is getting what you deserve, mercy is not getting what you deserve. If all we ever received from God was mercy, that would be miracle enough to give thanks for all our days. If God only released us from judgment, only withdrew the charge He has against us, onlystayed His wrath and allowed us to live without fear all our days and forever – that would be sufficient grounds to love, honor, and obey Him forever.
And God does show us mercy, because of the work of our Lord Jesus Christ; and in case we find ourselves coming up short at any time, we have a standing invitation to come before Him, seeking mercy and grace to help in our time of need (Heb. 4.16). Mercy is an infinitely refreshing and infinitely renewable blessing because of Jesus.
God is merciful to us, even though we are not as grateful for His mercy as mercy deserves. But God doesn’t stop with mercy. Grace follows hard on mercy’s heels. And grace leads us to know and live in justice, so that the love of God becomes our native environment and fruit.
Grace is getting what you don’t deserve. We don’t deserve the steadfast love and faithfulness of God; His forgiveness and kindness; His long-suffering and gentleness; His bounteous provision; His power to work in and through us; and this world of beauty and wonder where He has placed us. We are surrounded by, immersed in, and fairly ablaze with the grace of God, from the day we enter this life; and we are yet more fully engulfed in grace as we come to faith in Jesus, declaring Him to be our gracious Master and our God.
Grace is just what we don’t deserve, and Jesus makes sure we get as much of it as we need.
The more we understand of the justice, mercy, and grace of God, and how God blesses us with these, the better prepared and more inclined we will be to praise, thank, and obey the Lord as justice, mercy, and grace require.
Contemplate the justice of God, in all its rich scope and wisdom, as revealed in the Law of God and the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. Give thanks for the mercy of God, by which we are daily renewed in forgiveness and hope. And seek all the grace you need for each day’s journey, and every moment’s opportunity.
These are what Jesus fulfilled for us. Let us live in justice, mercy, and grace so that Jesus may be seen to be living in us as well.
1. How do you see the justice, mercy, and grace of God at work in your life?
2. How would you explain the workings of grace to an unbelieving friend?
Psalm 51.7-9 (Passion Chorale: O Sacred Head, Now Wounded)
In Jesus’ blood and mercy, Lord, cleanse my evil heart!
Let me washed, cleansed, renewed be, and pure in whole and part.
Bring joy again and gladness; look not upon my sin.
Deliver me from sadness; renew me yet again!
Lord, thank You for justice, mercy, and grace; help me ever to reflect these to others as I…
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T. M. Moore, Principal
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.