There is an almost deafening cry for justice nowadays. So many people feel like they have been treated unfairly. Certainly, the evidence of widespread child abuse, disproportionate incarceration along racial and ethnic lines, and all kinds of discrimination, are reasons for those who suffer to seek recompense. But is justice really what we seek? Too often those deafening cries sound more like angry rumblings for revenge.
When we desperately desire for those who have wronged us to get-what-is-coming to them, practically all notions of mercy are abandoned. There is a bit of the vigilante in the best of us. Isn't it strange that when we pray to God we always ask for mercy when it comes to our wrongdoings but never ask for justice. Mercy seems to be what we want for ourselves while justice is what we pursue for others.
The difference between justice and mercy is that mercy seeks forgiveness and justice seeks punishment. Both of them wish to make the victim whole again. Don't get me wrong. There must always be consequences to unacceptable behavior. Without rules, laws and impartial justice, anarchy overcomes societal order. I have served as an officer of the court, a probation officer, and a pardons/parole prison counselor. So I thoroughly understand the need for a system of judicial penalty. But maybe, just maybe, if we would first apply The Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) the difference between justice and mercy might blur a little bit.
In the midst of current conditions while seemingly surrounded by chaotic suffering, we could easily miss seeing the presence of God in those who have wounded us. We must remember that when mercy is abandoned, the heavy hand of justice can destroy us as easily as any shadowy external enemy. May our guardians of justice always consider the flawed nature of all people and balance their decisions with fairness. May we, in turn be merciful as God is merciful to us.