Black and white. Right versus wrong.
If only it were that easy. Truthfully, we are broken people living in a broken world.
I mentioned early in the series that I am a justice-oriented person. This is positive in some ways. Social justice is important; God instructs us to care for the “least of these” in society. Isaiah 1:17 says:
encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow.
The Bible mentions in Psalms that the Lord loves justice (Psalm 33:5). He is a just God. And I am made in his image.
The problem arises when my sense for justice turns into a belief that I deserve to live a nice, orderly life. I start putting my faith in order and justice instead of Jesus. I believe the things I have accumulated are mine. I get comfortable. I believe that I have a right to be treated fairly in all circumstances.
But we do live in a broken world. People hurt people. I hurt others. Others hurt me. When I am wronged by someone, I have a tendency to cry out like Job:
Though I cry, ‘I’ve been wronged!’ I get no response; though I call for help, there is no justice. Job 19:7
When I am wronged, I start to look around for justice. Compassion deserts me as I cry, “foul!” I immediately forget all of the times that I hurt others, intentionally or unintentionally. I forget that broken people hurt others out of their own pain, as I have done so many times. I forget that I am only one step away from what my justice-oriented heart considers a “really big sin”.
Lately, I have pondered the relationship between Jesus and Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus for thirty silver coins. Judas wrongs Jesus in an obvious way. Yet, we don’t see Jesus crying, “foul” or “I have been wronged”. Judas’ action was probably not just an isolated slip-up. Most likely, there was a pattern of sinful behavior that emerged during the weeks and months leading up to Jesus’ death. Jesus knew the sin in the heart of Judas. He knew what Judas was doing and that he would ultimately betray him. Yet Jesus allowed him to stay among his closest followers. He let the situation play out. He didn’t intercede.
I have a lot of thoughts about this intriguing relationship. Obviously, I wasn’t there. We don’t know everything that occurred. (I also know that regardless of Judas’ decision, Jesus was going to that cross to save us.) But it just makes me think about how quickly I point out that I have been wronged instead of letting the situation play out. Instead of being patient and trying to figure out how I can minister to a broken person, I push the offender far away from me because my rights have been trampled.
How would my relationships change if I pulled those people close instead of pushing them away? If I chose mercy over justice? To use another quote from The Shack by William Paul Young:
“He chose the way of the cross where mercy triumphs over justice because of love. Would you instead prefer he’d chosen justice for everyone?”
Extending grace means understanding that my version of justice is warped and one-sided. If I impose justice, then I should be subjected to that same justice.
Who am I to demand justice when Jesus chose mercy?