Intertwined: Justice and Mercy

I recently listened to a sermon by Ian DiOrio entitled Justice (10/13/10).  This sermon gave me a greater understanding of justice and how mercy and justice are intertwined together.  You see, I am a person of mercy; I have great compassion for people in the moment of their need.  My husband, however, is a man of great justice.  There have often been conversations in our marriage where he has driven me completely nuts;  I will be discussing a person's need and he will begin talking about bigger issues - looking at what caused the problem.  I get frustrated because I start to think he doesn't care about the person and why should we worry about the bigger problem because it won't help that person right now.  It has seemed like we have been opposed to one another but after listening to this sermon I've realized that if we work together, both in our strengths, we can accomplish more.

You see my former thoughts were that mercy and justice were on opposite ends of a teeter-totter.   Both were needed but there had to be a sort of balance between them.  However, the following visual Ian shared struck a cord within me and gave me a different perspective on how justice and mercy work together:
Pretend you are on a river camping and see you a baby come floating down the river.  You would wade into the river and get the baby out and take care of its needs.  That is an act of compassion, it is an act of mercy.  But lets say, that a few minutes later another baby comes floating down the river, and then another baby and another baby.  Mercy is the act that keeps getting the babies out of the river but justice is the act that stops and asks the question, "Who's upstream throwing babies down the river?  How can we go upstream and stop the person who is throwing babies in the river?"

This visual not only rocked my heart but I could totally envision my husband and I in the scenario.  Initially, we would both be in the river.  But eventually my husband would talk about getting out of the river and walking upstream to see what was causing the problem.  I would be so consumed in the immediate problem that I would probably end up getting irritated thinking he didn't care about the babies, when in fact, he cared so much that he wanted to eliminate the source of the problem.  As this direct quote will show, both of our gifts would be needed to solve the problem:
"Some of you are mercy people, compassion people, you are people who will always put bandages on broken souls and you will do that without any sense of duty or obligation, it's who God created you to be and you will always do that.  And some of you are justice people.  Some of us ask the question, 'Is there a way to stop the perpetuation of broken people?  Is there a way to stop children from being thrown into the river?  Is there a way to stop communities that are broken and desperate from continuing violence and tragedy?  As Micah shows us we are to do both:"

Micah 6:8
He has shown you, O mortal, 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.

While I know this understanding will be beneficial to future conversations in my marriage, I think that this message is applicable to conversations that occur within the church, especially in America.  When you are engaging in coversation with fellow believers I think it is important for you to stop and think about where they are coming from in their conversation - a place of mercy or a place of justice?  Often times conversations get stunted because we think we are oppossed to one another.  But mercy and justice are not opposed; they are intertwined together and Scripture tells us that we are to do both. However, sometimes the way to accomplish "both" is by working together with people who see things differently than us. My prayer for the church is that we can have a greater understanding of the relationship between mercy and justice and begin to walk together to accomplish our goals.  Greater success depends on our ability to operate in the strength of both.

In Christ,

Photo courtesy of Melanie Guest Photography

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