Thursday, 10 July 2014

Justice or Mercy...A Christian's Dilemma

My most recent discovery - fake plants.  
Lots of pretty without the risk of death.
I once killed an ivy plant.  It's fake pretty all the way.

It was many years ago when I was first asked to choose whether it was justice or mercy which appealed to me more.  I cannot tell you how long it took me to answer the question!  I was doing a Myers-Briggs personality typing test and an answer was required.  I have since discovered I am not terribly high on the mercy scale (my spiritual gifts assessment survey showed 4 out of a possible 18 points).  I always end up choosing justice, but it is not without a great deal of personal angst that I make that choice.

I value mercy.  Really I do.  Because of Christ's mercy on me I get to live a life free from the bondage of sin and its consequences.  I get to look forward to an eternity in Heaven basking in the brilliance of my Father's love because He showed me compassion and offered up His son instead me.  He continues to show me mercy very single day.  Mercy is super important.  How could it not be?

But justice...  I am a rules girl.  Justice is important.  The Psalms are full of stories about God ensuring the wicked will not always prevail so I know that my incredibly merciful Father is also interested in justice.  I am not naturally inclined to colour outside the rules in life.  It's a personality thing, I know.  When I was small I would do anything to avoid the absolute humiliation of getting into trouble, even for the smallest thing.  That's not to say I didn't get into trouble or do the wrong thing; when I did there was no amount of punishment my parents could impart that would be worse than my own internal punishment and humiliation.  The most rebellious thing I do seems to be deviating from a recipe.  Serious risk-taking behaviour there.

All of this brings me to my most recent justice or mercy dilemma.  Asylum seekers.  These are some of the most vulnerable people on our Earth.  Their lives are in constant danger; they have experienced unspeakable, unimaginable atrocities.  I just want to bundle them up and love them back to a belief in safety.  I simply cannot imagine how they have endured and if it were up to me I would stand at the border of this land I call home and welcome them in.  Indeed I would call them over and tell them there is a safer place for them to be; for their children to grow up without constant fear.  I want to cry every time I think of what these people have gone through and the dangerous journeys they have had to embark upon just to be safe.

But there are those who make mercy difficult.  Those who come illegally.  Those who site seeking asylum as their reason for entry but really just want better employment and financial prospects.  Those who flout the rules we have to get what they want.  These people make it difficult for us to see the real seekers of asylum and they muddy the waters of mercy.
"Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters.  Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies."
Hebrews 13:1-3 (NLT)
As Christians we are clearly called to entertain strangers and to 'remember' those being mistreated as if the pain were our own.  When I did a search on the word 'strangers' on Bible Gateway (.com), however, there were plenty of references with an admonishment to be wary of strangers who would pillage the fruits of our labour.

Somewhere there has to be a line...a way forward where we offer mercy, compassion and safe harbour to those in need, and protect ourselves from those who act only out of selfish ambition.  I don't know what the answer is.  I wish I did because there are people who need us to protect them and offer them hope that things can, and will, be better.  People who need us to figure this out now, and stop arguing about how to make it happen.


Beth said...

I read recently that justice and mercy are not opposites, but they must go hand in hand. We wouldn't understand mercy if we didn't have justice.

Nancy McCarroll said...

An excellent post, very honest. At first I thought mercy, then after reading your thoughts, I am at justice. Without an answer to the question of dealing with those not following the rules. Can you tell that on the MB scale, I am an ENTJ?