The Godhead Together
Jesus is referred to in Acts 7:52 as “the Just One.” Justice is one of those things we like to savor when someone else has wronged us, but when we are the offending party, we would sincerely like to avoid it! It is fortunate for us that God has the capacity to be completely just, and at the same time, limitlessly merciful.
Each of us has an innate longing for fairness and justice within us, because we carry the stamp of God’s likeness as part of our human nature. Remember that in the beginning, God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Genesis 1:26).
Justice requires that wrongs be made right. This is why we do not pat murderers on the back, tell them it’s OK, and send them on their merry way without demanding any consequential payment for what they have done.
Our sense of justice agrees with the “reap what you sow” principle: we expect that if we work hard or do right, we will be blessed in return, and if it doesn’t seem to happen that way, we feel some level of disappointment or even outrage. When we have been falsely accused, we long for vindication. Unfortunately, because our sin nature has twisted our sense of justice, our natural tendency is to reason that we can earn salvation or God’s approval by attempting to be good.
Because God is perfectly just, all wrongs must be righted in some way. Sin must be paid for. This is where His mercy comes in: He decided to pay the price for us through Jesus dying in our place, so that we would not have to pay the consequences ourselves. Justice has been served — on Jesus. Jesus, Who is God, bore the satisfying of His own justice by substituting Himself for us. Had there been any other human who was completely innocent (and there was not), that person still could not have been required by God to take our place — because for the innocent to pay for something he did not do would be unjust. Only God could satisfy His own justice by putting Himself in our place of punishment. This is an unfathomable mystery.
Psalm 100:5 states that “The LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting.” God’s mercy toward us is without limit or end, and it goes beyond salvation to constantly repairing and restoring our lives, sin after sin, mistake after mistake, so that we can still experience a life of purpose and fulfilled destiny, as long as we continue to yield ourselves into His hands.
If God were not just, neither would He be good. Our inherent sense of right tells us this. But without His mercy toward us, life would be hopeless and miserable beyond endurance. Both are necessary for our well-being, and both are equally important components of the goodness of God.