Justice AND Forgiveness?
In my mind and heart these two concepts are so hard to mesh together. If you forgive, justice is ruled out. If justice is rendered, there can be no forgiveness. Thinking about this in a parental way helps a little. It is precisely because I love my children that I insist on discipline (justice) for their wrongdoing. Love and Justice.
I’ve always thought I was a pretty forgiving person. Until someone accidentally killed my husband and left my 5 children without a father. I can’t seem to grasp the connection between justice and forgiveness. A society demands justice in order to safeguard its citizens. Broken relationships require forgiveness. Christians should understand, at least dimly, that forgiveness and justice are not in a contradictory relationship with God. Loving the sinner hating the sin concept that seems so elusive. I know the Cross stands as a profound witness to true forgiveness and justice, but how?
It’s easy to cheer on Hosea’s plea (“Hold fast to love and justice” Hosea 12:6) when love and justice work to our benefit. We all want love and we all want forgiveness. I believe we all want to extend forgiveness too, but we want it to be to whomever and whenever we wish. Forgiving someone who has hurt us doesn’t hold much appeal. Same with justice…we very much want justice when we have been wronged. We are much less keen on justice when we are the wrongdoer.
I am finding that forgiveness, in my situation, must come from grace. Gods grace. Like God, we are to forgive the wrongdoer while hating the wrong. Have I mentioned how hard it is to separate the two? In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis has this quote: “However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been the slightest difficulty about it. In fact the very reason why I hated the things was that I loved the man.” gulp..that’s a bit convicting. Learning to do with others what we do with ourselves is very hard. Our model is Christ. He hates the evil we do while continuing to love us. Where would we be otherwise?
When our legal system is at its best, justice is meted out appropriately. But we all know that a system run by corrupt human beings hardly operates at its best. However, the incompleteness of human justice does not render forgiveness impossible. In my mind it makes it much more difficult because of the unfairness of it all, but not impossible.
So how does the Cross stand as a profound witness to true forgiveness and justice? Because Christs death paid the penalty for justice I deserved. So I am free to express this grace to others. Lord grant me this grace.
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