Justice is the ideal of fairness and impartiality, concerning the punishment of wrongdoing, while mercy is the ideal of compassion and forgiveness. To people, these two ideals seem to somewhat contrast, but they actually work in harmony.
Many people see God as a forgiving, loving being, who lets everyone go and won’t punish offenses, but that idea is wrong. It is true that God is forgiving, but He is also just. He fights for the oppressed and will dole out judgment to the wicked. He is emotional, but not sentimental or partial when it comes to judgment. That is what we must emulate as believers.
We’ll explore the concepts of God’s mercy and justice in the Bible, and how we can walk with a balance between them in our lives.
The God of Justice
It is in God’s nature to be just. We see this in verses like;
For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.Isaiah 61:8
Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.Isaiah 30:18
For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.
Who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free;Psalms 146:6–8
The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous.
By studying these Scriptures and others about the justice of God, we can deduce a few things;
- God is no respecter of persons.
He sends rain both on the rich and the poor, and judges everyone according to their works. (1 Peter 1:17)
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- God’s justice is not only about retribution or revenge, but about the flourishing of all his creation by holding people accountable for their actions.
- God is incorruptible.
Deuteronomy 10:17 says,
“For the Lord, your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe.”
- God is impartial.
Romans 2:11 clearly states that “For there is no partiality with God”. He doesn’t make decisions based on unjust standards that are man-made.
- His fairness is exhibited in the way he governs, in His judgments, and in all His ways.
- God is just denying the ungodly.
He is hated by the lawless man and loved by the righteous.
- He fairly promises to punish the wicked. And once He says a thing, it must surely be done. Time is never a factor.
- His justice is also displayed in the validity that there is heaven and hell and a day of final Judgment for both the living and dead.
- We can also see that God is just in His manner of forgiving sins completely when we ask for mercy.
- His sense of justice is incomparable to any man’s and it is abundant.
God of Mercy
There are many references to God’s mercy throughout Scripture. From Genesis where we see Him show forgiveness to Joseph’s brothers for their betrayal, to the book of Kings where He forgives David for adultery and murder, to Psalms where David sings songs praising His mercy, right down to Revelations where the hosts of Heaven praise His loving kindness forever.
But the most loving of all to us is the way He shows it to us today. Romans 3:23-24 tells us that everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. But God displays His mercy by not giving us the punishment we deserve but forgiving us when we sin against Him and repent. God is merciful to even the worst sinners when they repent.
That concept of being that merciful is alien to a lot of people because the world is all about revenge and getting back at those that wrong us. But our God forgives our sins and so we must also forgive those who sin against us and hurt us.
You can find many resources and guidelines for praying for a heart that is filled with God’s mercy and justice on devotional apps. They are also very easy to access.
Where Can We Find A Balance Between The Mercy And Justice of God?
The greatest display of the balance of God’s mercy and justice in the Bible is salvation. Fairness demands that every man pays for his actions and sins so it is true that we all deserve to die for the things we have done.
But the Impartial God who was to mete out judgment for our sins, sent down His only son in mercy to die in place of criminals who never deserved it.
This doesn’t make Him unjust. At the end of time, He will still judge those who rejected His mercy and continued in evil. If God has shown this great display of balance, surely we can also be merciful to those around us, and also refuse to be unjust in our dealings with others.
The Call of God’s People to Act Justly and Mercifully
As it is our Father’s nature to be fair, we also have a call to uphold biblical justice in our society and wherever we find ourselves in.
We see this in Micah 6:8,
“He has shown 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.”
This call doesn’t necessarily mean we have to go to Law school, get a degree, become a lawyer, and defend people in court. But it requires taking a stand for the truth and forgiving people when they do us wrong. From Scripture, here are some other ways we can act justly to others:
- Acquit those who are innocent, condemn the guilty, and expose false accusations and bribery.
We must stand against evil and support good. Never give false testimonies or accept bribes to lie or keep quiet so that evil thrives right in front of you.
- Being transparent in business. Proverbs 11:1 says,
“A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight.”
We may be tempted at times to be dishonest to make extra profit, but that is not who we are called to be.
- Treat everyone equally regardless of race, skin color, financial situation, background, or what you can gain from them.
Be impartial towards all men. Preferences or advantages shouldn’t influence the way you regard a person.
Bible Verses About Mercy And Justice
“He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.”Deuteronomy 10:18
“Surely, God will not act wickedly, And the Almighty will not pervert justice.”Job 34:12
“I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted. And justice for the poor.”Psalm 140:12
“His mercy extends to those who fear [revere] him, from generation to generation.”Luke 1:50
“Because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.James 2:13
“You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you.Psalms 86:5
“He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”Titus 3:5
Justice flows from God’s heart and character, and so does mercy. As His image and representatives here on earth, it should be evident in the way we relate with others as well.
The surest way to inculcate these qualities in our own lives is to ask the Holy Spirit for help in prayer.