There is nothing worse than watching a movie that ends with the bad guy getting away with it. Why does this bug us so much? And it’s far worse when it happens not in Hollywood fiction but in real life. In real lives.
There is much havoc in our world right now and it chafes. We watch the news, we read the articles, we follow current events and we see bad guys getting away with it. And so we cry out to God and ask Him to deal with the bad guys, to sit at the bench and judge. To bring justice.
I wonder if our sense of justice — our longing to see “right” prevail — is part of being made in the image of God. After all, He declares Himself to be just, a righteous judge who securely holds the plumb line from which all justice flows. And for most of us justice means the good guys win and the bad guys pay.
At the moment, however, it seems there is a lot more of the opposite happening. Despite how we pray and plead with God to right the wrongs and settle some scores, it does not seem to happen fast enough or on a big enough scale for our taste. This is because ultimate judgment is being withheld for now. For now. And that’s a good thing. The scales of life are weighted toward mercy. And that’s a very good thing.
But how do we navigate life when the injustices stack up and the weight of it all feels as though it will crush us? How do we conduct ourselves while we wait for the day when all the wrongs will be made right, all the scores settled, and good will triumph over all the evil? What do we do?
The prophet Micah boiled it down for us when he said, “What does God require of you? Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.”
We are to make sure that we act justly and not ourselves be the perpetrators of injustice. We should work for justice, lift up the oppressed, minister to the marginalized and the victimized. We are expected to act justly, but we are also called to love mercy. We want the guilty to pay for their crimes, especially the very heinous, but how much more should we long for them to repent, to turn from their sin and be reborn into new life, remade into new creations. This is the reconciling work of mercy.
It is not wrong by any means to desire that the crimes of the guilty be atoned for and that those who have been victimized get justice. But it is better to desire the reconciliation of the guilty with their Maker because in that desire is the humble admission that we are, in fact, all guilty before the Judge of all the earth. Every last one of us. And for now, the reconciliation that mercy brings is the point of withholding final judgment.
Jesus said, “I did not come to condemn the world but to save it.” The world, you see, is already condemned. That verdict came down a long time ago a lá Genesis 3. So for now the order of the day is not more judgment. It is mercy. It is grace. It is a second, or third, or fourth, or seventy times seven chance. It is the call for repentance of all us broken sinners, bad guys and good guys alike. It is salvation. We should long for this as much or more than we long for justice. Because at the heart of justice is judgment, but at the heart of mercy is love. And it is only love that can truly cover a multitude of sin.