"God presented [Jesus] as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished–he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus." Romans 3:25-26
Yesterday at my church service they played Benton Brown's "Jesus You are worthy". The refrain at the end is "justice and mercy". And for some reason, I suddenly got what that song meant.
Justice and mercy seem like a contradiction when together. I googled them together trying to find the song, and half the hits (that weren't about the flyleaf song) were about the contradiction. This one is from about.com:
True virtues are not supposed to clash - at least that is the ideal. Our personal interests or baser instincts may at times conflict with the virtues we are trying to cultivate, but higher virtues themselves are always supposed to be in harmony with one another. How, then, do we explain the apparent conflict between the virtues of mercy and justice?
But "Justice and Mercy meet on the cross".
How was justice served when Jesus died on the cross? Justice was carried out on ALL the sins of the world, all at once. All sinners and sins were punished. Fallen man was summarily punished for his depravity. And since we can agree that we've all fallen short of perfection, we've all sinned, that none of us is perfect - we can probably also agree that we deserve such justice served against us.
Then the mercy: We deserved punishment. And punishment was meted out... but not on us. Jesus mercifully put himself before us on the cross, receiving punishment we all should have borne and be bearing now. But we received grace instead of punishment, mercy instead of justice.
An excerpt from Philip Yancy's "What's So Amazing About Grace?" really hits it home:
"I agreed that the notion that a man could go to a store where a group of unarmed human beings are drinking soda pop and eating moon pies, fire a shotgun blast at one of them, tearing his lungs and heart and bowels from his body, turn on another and send lead pellets ripping through his flesh and bones, and that God would set him free is almost more than I could stand. But unless that is precisely the case then there is no Gospel, there is no Good News. Unless that is the truth we have only bad news, we are back with law alone."In this except, Yancy is recounting a story of pre-civil rights era America, where a white man armed with a shotgun killed several innocent African-Americans. The crazy concept here is that both have opportunities to get into heaven.
God doesn't differentiate between our sins. Jealousy and gluttony are no less sins than racism and murder. Both sins put the sinners clearly on the fallen side of the law. If God can't forgive a murderer, than someone who's guilty of jealousy can't be forgiven either. But God does forgive jealousy, and gluttony, and racism, and murder. He is capable of forgiving all sins. Romans 10:10 tells us "For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." Paul tells us earlier in Romans 8:30 "And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified."
So the idea that a victim and his murderer could both end up in heaven is appalling to us. But not to God. If both have believed in their hearts and confessed with their mouths, they are saved. We have to believe that we can't be "too bad" for God's love. And if we are able to believe that we ourselves can't be too bad for His love, we also need to believe that others can't be too bad either. We must remember two keys parts: "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."; and "[all] are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." Romans 3:23-24