What do you think of, and what have you heard about God? You may remember well that God is love. In fact, if you were to reflect on the character of God, this is the clearest expression you could distil it to. So, what about justice?
In the Bible, we read from the start to the end of example after example of consequences for doing wrong. Consider the accounts of Adam and Eve, Noah, Sodom and Gomorrah, Egypt, Nineveh, Israel, Babylon, Rome (feel free to research some of these if you do not know how they demonstrate wrongdoing). Throughout these encounters, there is a clear demonstration of the pattern – instruction (Law), wrong doing, justice (consequences), forgiveness.
Let us consider the following story as an allegory for God’s relationship to us.
There’s a story about a judge whose own son was brought before her for a crime he had committed. The judge felt a deep grief that her son would violate the laws upon which she based her entire life. Tears welled in her eyes and she listened painfully as the evidence against her son was presented. The courtroom sat in silence wondering how the judge would rule. Would she just give him a reprimand in an act of mercy? Would she give him the minimum penalty for the offense? Much to their surprise, she handed down the maximum fine, upholding the law to its fullest degree. The son was in shock, for he knew that he couldn’t pay the fine and was anguished at the thought of imprisonment. He looked up at her in disbelief.
But then something happened that nobody expected. She stepped down from the bench, took off her judge’s robe, told her son how much she loved him and then paid, out of her own pocket, the fine she had just handed down. Not everyone understood what she had done. As a judge, she showed her commitment to honour the law to its fullest, but she then stepped down from that seat of honour and showed her love for her child. Her son never understood the depth of his mother’s commitment to the law until that moment, and, until that moment, he never knew the depth of his mother’s love for him. He felt deep sorrow for the pain he had caused her and for those he had hurt by his act of crime. With his head bowed, and his tears flowing freely, he asked for her forgiveness, which she willingly and freely gave to him. (The Judge (snapshotsofgod.com))
Today, let us consider the ways in which we fall short of the standards that are expected of us. Let us recognise the role of consequences in our correction. But let us also accept the need to forgive and receive forgiveness as we move forward in our desire to ‘live life to the full’.