Monday, November 12, 2007

Justice (12) - Justice and Mercy

Christians have two different motivations for action. Some situations require justice, whereas other situations require mercy. We must be able to distinguish between justice and mercy, as calling for justice when mercy is required just confuses the situation.

Justice has a judicial context. It corrects injustice. An injustice occurs when a person or group of people are harmed as consequence of someone breaking one of God’s laws. For example, if someone steals my car an injustice has be done. The biblical solution to that injustice is for the thief to make restitution to their victim. Justice requires that restitution takes place.

In the same way, if multinational company takes native lands without payment or permission, a theft has occurred. This crime breaks God’s law, so this is an injustice. Justice can only be achieved by the restitution of the land or equivalent financial compensation. Christians should be calling for justice in every situation where an injustice has occurred.

There are many other situations where a person or group of people is in dire straits, but the problem is not caused by injustice. Sometimes people end up in bad circumstances through the struggles of life. They may have made some mistakes or experienced an accident, but no injustice has occurred. These situations require compassion and mercy, not justice. There is no injustice to put right, because none of God’s laws has been broken. However, there is plenty of room for mercy, because Christians should always be assisting those in need.

If I have plenty of income and my neighbour down the road lives in real poverty, an observer can say that they do not like that situation, but they cannot assume that I am unjust. My neighbour’s poverty may is unlikely to be the result of my injustice (unless I have stolen from them). They cannot even say that a situation is unjust, because only human actions can be unjust. What the Christian observer can say is that I am lacking in compassion.


Philip said...

I have enjoyed your series on Justice, especially the way you put it into context with the poor neighbor down the road.

RonMcK said...

Thanks Philip.
I trust your house church goes well. We need more in New Zealand.