Saturday, June 07, 2008

mercy, charity, clemency, grace, leniency mean a disposition to show kindness or compassion. mercy implies compassion that forbears punishing even when justice demands it mercy of the court>.

This is part of the formal definition from Webster's dictionary. I've been thinking about some terms that we throw around easily as human beings, and we hold to them certain connotations that aren't always included in Webster's dictionary. But being the linguist I am, I wanted to go back and look at a few terms.

These two definitions struck me as interesting, especially since words like mercy, justice and peace have dominated some conversations I've had lately.

1 a: the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments b: judge c: the administration of law; especially : the establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity2 a: the quality of being just, impartial, or fair b (1): the principle or ideal of just dealing or right action (2): conformity to this principle or ideal : righteousness c: the quality of conforming to law3: conformity to truth, fact, or reason : correctness


1 a: having a basis in or conforming to fact or reason : reasonable just but not a generous decision> barchaic : faithful to an original c: conforming to a standard of correctness : proper <just proportions>2 a (1): acting or being in conformity with what is morally upright or good : righteous just war> (2): being what is merited : deserved just punishment> b: legally correct : lawful <just title to an estate>

Peace is a whole other topic I'll write about I want to discuss these two terms.

Justice is an interesting topic, one I've never been really concerned with on a daily basis. In my limited knowledge, justice is demanded when a wrong has been committed, i.e. a crime. In the West, we picture Justice as a woman blindfolded with scales in her hand.

In Spanish, the word justice is justicia. Strangely enough, the Spanish vocabulary has no room for the word righteousness. They translate this word as justice. But yet another topic for another day.

In Micah 6:8, the author says,

8 He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.


What's all this you say? What is your point today in this blog? Hang in there with me, I've got a few thoughts.

Justice is an attribute of God, something He desires. His requirement for conformity to His law prohibits us from standing in His presence. His justice (correctness, conformity) must be met in order for us to have a relationship with him. In the OT, to walk justly, one needed to follow the letter of the law.

This was impossible, and still is. In order to satisfy His need for justice, God had to send Jesus to die a substitutionary death for us. His perfect Son became the perfect sacrfice, satisfied the demands God had made in the Law, and now we are righteous and stand before Him without any sin.

In Micah, we are commanded to walk justly. Ahah, what does this mean. I refer to the above definition of just.

"having a basis in or conforming to fact or reason"

So, we are to walk in reason. We aren't to walk in justice (demanding conformity to the Law), but reason. Micah also tells us to love mercy. I refer to the above definition of mercy

"a disposition to walk in kindness or compassion"

And finally, we are walk humbly. I don't think I have to look up humility to say that most of us, including me, struggles to walk in true humility.

Breaking this down like this, I'm realizing (with reason) that my calling by God is to persue compassion, to love walking in mercy, to find reasonable ways to love mercy, and while doing so, walk in submission to God's plan by being humble.

Phew, that's head spinning.

Back to Justice. If God's need for Justice has been satisfied, His wrath against our sin subdued by His perfect Sacrfice, shouldn't my anger for Justice be satisfied as well?

Does this mean its wrong to feel angry at injust situations? No. But what we do with this Anger is crucial. Jesus had angry moments, and he drove the men out of the temple. However, as a friend said to me this week, did we ever stop to think if He healed their wounds afterwards?

The prophets cried Foul! again and again and again in the Old Testament. We have Jesus' words in the book of Matthew as he cries out the woes against the Pharisees. We see Paul's words against the sins in 1 Corinthians. We see God's punishment against the Israelites time and again for their sins.

However, from start to finish, the overwhelming theme of the Bible isn't justice in the Webster's definition sense, that is God demanding that we demand conformity to the law. But, what we see is that Justice is one of the players in the grand scheme of God's love and how He's shown it to us, and How has satisfied His own need for Justice through His own perfect Son.

And as a response, we are to walk reasonably, loving compassion, and do it humbly to point back to what He's done.