Updated: Aug 28, 2020
Years ago I adopted Micah 6:8 as my life verse.
He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?
I have found through living life and helping others that much of what is true and good is not found in the extremes. It is often found in the balance of what we assume are competing values.
Justice and Mercy seem like competing values, one is about accountability and making things right, an eye for an eye so to speak. The other is about freedom from judgement and letting things go. How do we hold them both firmly and equally?
I think the answer is in the verse, by walking closely and humbly with God. Without the wisdom that we can receive by close connection with the most just and merciful One, we are bound to fall to one side or the other.
The justice crowd cries out for things to be made right. Justice can often be fueled by anger, and not always unrighteous anger. But any anger can be an energy that is used poorly, to seek vengance, punishment. But I think that energy can also be used productively to make things right. We use the anger we may feel to give us the message that something unjust is done either to ourselves, someone we care about or someone who may be vulnerable or undeserving of the treatment they receive. Its what we do with that message that is important.
The Mercy crowd wants to let everything go, create peace at all costs, avoid conflict and erase wrongs. This too is a beautiful thing, to not hold someone accountable for the wrong they do is called for in scripture and frees us from the damaging effects of anger that turns to bitterness. But used without justice is the same as cheap grace. To forgive a behavior without holding someone accountable sends the message that we don't believe they are better than that. We are supposed to sharpen one another. Parents who parent without consequences teach that all behavior is acceptable. Mercy without justice is often an enabling stance that does not require the best from a person and can send the message that you don't believe the person can be their best.
It has helped me to conceptualize the struggle like this, Judge the behavior, hold the behavior accountable, but have mercy on the person. That is overly simplistic maybe but if we can judge a persons behavior that is harmful to themselves or others as wrong and initiate consequences, be they boundaries or loss of privileges (if we are dealing with a child) or some other form of deterent. But we should offer mercy to the individual, mercy in the form of love and reconciliation. We need to realize that people often don't understand their own behavior and when they do, sometimes if they have caused harm, their own grief can be more than they can bear. Also, focus judgement on the rules and laws of an unjust system rather than the individual. "For our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." Ephesians 6:12. People are often decieved and held captive or buy into a darkness they don't understand.
We really can't do this well without humility because it is probably as easy as staying balanced walking on a tightrope. So that humble, close, contected walk with God is necessary for the wisdom to know when to act justly, how to love mercy and how to be the best representation of Him that we can be in our limited human way.
This has been part of the fmf writing challenge