Dec 162014 8 Responses

A True Picture of Justice and Grace

At times the concepts of justice and grace seem juxtaposed. We are supposed to value both but the two seem at odds. Grace is best illustrated in humanity not getting what we deserve. God grants us what we do not deserve and withholds what we do deserve.

Yet justice is also an integral part of God’s character. To love God is to love justice. We are called not just to love justice but to live justly and fight against injustice. It is the way of a Christian. (See: Why We Don’t Like Grace)

While I often struggle to communicate the balance between God’s justice and His grace, there are moments in which the terms are illustrated for me.

This week was one of those times.

Every year our church partners with Prison Fellowship. Our church adopts angels, buys presents, and hosts a dinner where children are given gifts. Each child has one thing in common—they have a parent in prison. The prisoners sign their child up, requesting that we buy a gift on the prisoners’ behalf. The gifts are given to the children not in the name of our church, but in the name of their parent. One of my favorite things to say each year is, “Your dad (or mom) couldn’t be with you this Christmas, but they asked us to give you this.” (See: What Makes a Little Boy Cry)

What struck me this year was seeing some of my friends in the room who work in various aspects of law enforcement. Police officers and prosecutors sat in a room full of kids who had a parent in prison. Some of those parents could have been arrested by one of the officers or prosecuted by one of the attorneys. In the name of justice, those men and women carry out their duties to society and God. Yet, at the same time, they are willing to give gifts to the children of the very people they arrested or prosecuted.

This is a picture of justice and grace.

I see it on occasion as a pastor. Part of my task is to warn people against bad decisions. I point to specific commands which they should not violate. I warn them that disobedience can carry costly consequences.

Some heed the warnings and choose wisely.

Some ignore the warnings and choose poorly. (See: You Better Make Up Your Mind)

Yet when someone chooses poorly, it’s not my job to say, “I told you so.” It’s my job to walk beside them even as they experience the negative consequences of their decision-making. It’s my opportunity to help them make a wise decision even after making a bad one.

Too often we are tempted to make a choice between justice or grace. We have a deeper affection for the prosecution or the defense. We feel drawn toward either what is morally right or what feels most loving. Yet God calls us to both. We are called to do justly and act gracefully.

Few things illustrate this for me more than a police officer or prosecutor living out justice and grace:

Break the law and one will arrest you. (See: Stop Cursing the Truck and Start Helping the Driver)

Get arrested and the other will prosecute you.

But if you go to prison, they both will buy your kids’ gifts at Christmastime and tell your children the gifts are from you.

This is justice and grace. This is a picture of a God who holds us accountable for our sin but then pays the penalty for us. It’s a picture of Jesus.

8 Responses to A True Picture of Justice and Grace
  1. Sue Rogers Reply

    What do I think?….I think this is a beautifully written article that provides a true picture of “justice and grace'”

  2. Jim Thies Reply

    Your last statement about accountability. According to New Testament Christ death and ressurection paid the price for our sin past, present and future. Does that mean the Christian believer is not to be held accountable for his sin?

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      We can experience negative consequences of our sin here on earth, but the sacrifice of Jesus removes all eternal consequences for the believer. It’s not that we aren’t held accountable for our sin, its that the penalty due for our sin has already been paid. It is as though I have never sinned.

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