Mercy vs. Justice

July 16, 2007

This week’s topic: Mercy vs. Justice

by Carrie Ann

For a Christian (and many others), JUSTICE is an eternal principle, and I don’t mean a Mormon-y eternal, I mean a cosmic, universal constant. Justice is a cousin of KARMA: what goes around comes around. Religions differ, however, on how the comes around gets around to coming around.

I think most humans agree with this, that all actions (good/bad/moral/immoral/ethical/unethical) will bring about some result, and we can choose how to behave and how this will affect others. My afore-mentioned big brown study guide defines justice thus: “The unalterable decree of God that sin and righteousness bring their own consequences.”

The Book of Mormon seems to indicate that the law of justice is a law that constrains God himself. I have interpreted the whole idea that by breaking this law “God would cease to be God” to mean that he didn’t make this one up. This law existed before God (if that’s possible). But to give us agency, God was condemning us to be “victims” to justice. There was no way we could make it through mortality without screwing up and thus being damned, or stopped from returning to God, for although God loves us, he cannot abide sin (another bigger-than-God law?).

So there is a loop-hole: to satisfy the law of justice, one person can pay the price for another…enter MERCY and the need for that person to pay our price, our savior, or Savior.

The idea that mercy overcomes justice is not FAIR. Justice is not fairness. It is not FAIR that I sin and Jesus pays the price. But one reason I am here in the first place is to overcome my pride and to learn to rely upon a power greater than my own. God has shown me mercy by giving his Son in atonement. I can embrace mercy or kick against the pricks. It seems like an easy choice, but my toes are sore.

Many proud mortals, such as yours truly, have a hard time letting other people do something for them. I love to serve but hate being served (unless I’m out to eat). There are those blessed individuals who readily accept Christ as their Savior. They, at the last supper, would have been like John the Beloved and would have leaned upon his breast out of love and familiarity. I would have been filling cups and clearing plates, careful to keep a respectful distance.

The scriptures tell us that if we choose NOT to take advantage of Christ’s paying our price, the Atonement, then we will have the opportunity to pay it ourselves. Alma the Younger got a small taste of that after the angel visited him; he was in agony, he was a damned soul for three days. We are also told by Alma that is it a lot easier to repent now and be forgiven then if we wait until after our mortal probation is over. THIS is the time to prepare to meet God, he says. But the choice is yours. The choice is mine. Now or later.

I rarely do this, but I feel the need to testify, a little personally… I still don’t know a lot about the Atonement or how it works. One of my goals in my scripture study is to know my Savior better. I have always struggled with really knowing him or feeling close to him as I feel that I should. I went through a real rough patch once and I had to become intimately acquainted with the process of repentance. I understood so clearly how my actions required a payment of justice; it was acute and excruciating. I had no other option but to beg for the mercy of my God. I HAD to rely on my Savior. He was the only person who could help me make restitution, the only person who could give me relief. I can’t explain in enough detail to provide satisfaction or adequate closure, but I experienced the process of mercy overcoming justice. I understand this principle through experience. Not to say that you can’t understand it without going through it, because you can. The Holy Ghost can teach just as powerfully as experience. But through that experience, I have more gratitude for my Savior.

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