Thursday, April 16, 2015

Merciful Justice: The Humble Walk of Jesus

(Part 2 of 2)
Our humility must be the life of Christ, the lamb of God, within us. ~ Andrew Murray
During the Lord’s brief time on earth, He lived Micah 6:8 - He walked humbly with God, extending mercy and justice. Heart and hand, flawlessly integrated, fully expressed. Two examples involve vulnerable women in shameful circumstances:
The woman with the 12-year flow of blood (Mark 5:25-34): Can you imagine the isolation, the rejection, the shame?  

Weakened by blood loss, impoverished by all she’d spent on ineffective medicines and doctors. Perpetually labeled unclean (see Leviticus 15:25-27), she would have been excluded from the temple. If she was a married woman, sexual relations would have been taboo, making her husband and bed unclean. Anything she touched would be declared unclean – including people in a crowd. Including Jesus. No, in her condition, she couldn’t go to Him directly; instead, she brushed against his robe and retreated into the swirling throng. And her suffering ceased!
The unclean, touching the holy, in faith.
How did Jesus respond?
He called attention to her in the midst of the chaotic crowd - but not to shame her. Instead, He looked her in the eye. He commended her faith. He pronounced her healed. And He called her daughter – the only time in the gospels where Jesus calls anyone daughter.

Merciful justice.
The woman caught in adultery (John 8:2-11): Can you imagine the dozens of glaring eyes, the humiliation of your sexual sin being broadcast to the Sunday School teacher in front of the whole class?
She had no protector, no advocate. Surely she expected the condemnation that the Law dictated (see Leviticus 20:10).
How did Jesus respond?
He left the Pharisees’ challenges and accusations unanswered. He turned the spotlight away from her, the accused, and placed it instead upon her accusers. After the men had slunk away and the crowd had dispersed, Jesus looked the woman in the eye. He released her from condemnation. And He instructed her to leave her sinful lifestyle. To live fully in the freedom and dignity He had bestowed upon her.
Merciful justice.

How do we respond in merciful justice to those we serve? We walk the way that Jesus walked: humbly with our God. In utter union with the Lord. In humble dependence upon God, whose merciful justice then extends itself through our lives, touching those in need around us.

 “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner” (John 5:19, see also John 6:38, 7:16, 8:28, 14:24 & Philippians 2:5-9).

Monday, April 13, 2015

Merciful Justice (Part 1): The Heart of God

But let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me,
That I am the Lord, exercising faithful love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.
For in these I delight,” says the Lord. ~ Jeremiah 9:24
In our American culture, the term “justice” is commonly associated with punishing the criminal for his offense. After all, we have the “justice system.” And when someone’s been harmed, we want the offender “brought to justice.” The concept of mercy is not typically a part of our American cultural definition of justice.
But in God’s lexicon, justice and mercy are as intimately entwined as heart and hands, attitude and action, motive and service.

In his book, Generous Justice, Timothy Keller writes that the term translated “mercy” in Micah 6:8 is chesedh, the word for God’s unconditional grace and compassion, His heart. The word for justice is mishpat, which emphasizes the active expression of a heart of chesedh. So to humbly walk with God, we practice justice toward others with a heart of mercy.
Mishpat is far more holistic than punishing wrongdoing; it encompasses all the ways in which we fight for people’s rights, for their dignity as image-bearers of God. So “doing justice” will often involve care for and protection of the needy and disadvantaged within our society. To quote Keller:
“We do justice when we give all human beings their due as creations of God. Doing justice includes not only the righting of wrongs, but generosity and social concern, especially toward the poor and vulnerable. This kind of life reflects the character of God.”
As we contemplate God’s character, it shouldn’t surprise us that justice and mercy are flawlessly integrated in His heart. After all, His ways are justice and mercy:
He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice,
A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He (Deuteronomy 32:4).
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne;
Mercy and truth go before Your face (Psalm 89:14).
He identifies Himself by His loving care for the poor and vulnerable:
For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing (Deuteronomy 10:17-18).

And in Micah 6:8, He calls us to identify ourselves as those who walk in His ways, reflecting His heart of merciful justice.