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Justice and mercy

Justice and mercy

Something to read

Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing.

- 1 Peter 3:9.

Something to think about

When Abraham Lincoln remarked to his friend Joseph Gillespie that, ‘I have always found mercy to bear richer fruits than strict justice’, he was commenting on the fate of Union army deserters, rather than reflecting theologically on the meaning of justice. But his comparison of the two is a common one: strict justice demanding that a fair price be paid for harm done.

Justice, in a legal sense, is often defined in terms of what is fair or equitable. The Old Testament maxim, ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ sets limits around what revenge may be taken for an injury. Justice demands that it be no more than the injury itself, but the unspoken assumption is that it won’t be less.

But as Jesus develops the concept of justice in the Sermon on the Mount, he draws out the integral role that mercy plays. Even as we work for justice wherever there is oppression, we are to resist the urge to add to the world’s pain and harm as we do so. Instead, as Peter writes here in his letter, that we are closer to God, and to Christlike action, when we offer our prayers and blessings to those who have done us wrong, leaving retribution to the wisdom of God.

Something to do

Watch a story from the Forgiveness Project about those who have forgiven others after awful offences.  

Something to pray

God of mercy, thank you that you have brought together justice and mercy at the cross. Help me to seek justice without revenge, experiencing the power of grace and forgiveness while seeking a world made right again. Amen.

Today’s contributor is Rev Claire Jones