Justice comes through mercy - always has.

In his excellent explanation on the differences between "Penal Substitution" and "Christus Victor" Derek Flood examines the concepts of justice and mercy from a biblical point of view. I love the picture that He paints of God. Following is an excerpt from his writing.

Biblically to "bring justice" does not mean to bring punishment, but to bring healing and reconciliation. Justice means to make things right. All through the Prophets justice is associated with caring for others, as something that is not in conflict with mercy, but rather an expression of it. Biblically, justice is God's saving action at work for all that are oppressed:
"Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow". (Isaiah 1:17)

"This is what the LORD says: "`Administer justice every morning; rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed" (Jeremiah 21:12)
The way that we "administer justice", the Prophets tell us, is by encouraging and helping the oppressed. In contrast to what the Satisfaction-Doctrine says, God's justice is not in conflict with his mercy, they are inseparable. True justice can only come though mercy.
"This is what the LORD Almighty says: `Administer true justice: show mercy and compassion to one another. (Zechariah 7:9)

"Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice".( Isaiah 30:18)
If we want to understand the concept of justice as the writers of the Old Testament did, then we must see it as a "setting things right again". Thus when Christ comes, the way that he brings about justice is through mercy and compassion. Notice how in this next verse Christ does not bring justice with a hammer, but with a tenderness that cares for the broken and the abused.
"I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations… A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory" (Matthew 12:18-21)
The way that God brings about justice and "leads it to victory" is through acts of compassion - sheltering the "smoldering wick", and the "bruised reed". And what does Christ "proclaim to the nations" to bring about this justice?
"He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18-19)
The justice that Jesus ushers in, the righteousness he brings, have to do with God pouring his love out on us, with God showing his compassion for the lost and the poor. With God meeting us in our need and liberating us from sin and oppression. With "setting things right" - that is what biblical justice is about. There is no dichotomy between a "God of justice" in the Old Testament and a "God of mercy" in the New. There is no split in God's character. God has always been a compassionate God, a God of love. Jesus reveals who God is and who God has always been. Justice is about mercy. Justice comes through mercy and always has.

Must Our Illness Be Our Thorn?

It seems rare these days that I find something insightful on the topic of suffering.
This devotional post titled How to Suffer As a Christian – Must Our Illness Be Our Thorn? from the folks at Rest Ministries fits the bill. Here it is in full:

“Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same
attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.” (1 Peter 4:1)

In his book “Surprised By Suffering“, R.C. Sproul says:
“. . . suffering is a vocation, a calling from God.”
I’m not sure how I feel about that. Being called upon to suffer is not something to get excited about, not if we look at suffering within the limited vision of pain and misery. Suffering only becomes something to be valued and useful to us in the light of Christ’s suffering; our suffering gains meaning in the light of Christ’s suffering.

Years ago I sensed the Lord trying to get the message of suffering across to me. I did not want to hear that I would have to suffer, but the fact is, if you belong to Christ, you will suffer, one way or another. To pick up our cross is to follow in His footsteps, and the path He walked was rough and rocky, pain-filled, and laden with suffering.

One thing suffering does fairly quickly is to get our eyes off of this world, to lessen our love for this world and begin to look forward to heaven. If we were given “heaven on earth” we’d have no desire to ever leave this place. Suffering lifts our eyes heavenward, to desire something better than this present world.

I don’t know what you might be suffering right now. You may be enduring one of the worst periods of suffering in your life. I encourage you to look toward Jesus, consider how much He endured, and place your suffering in the light of what our Lord endured for us.

It would be nice (we think), to never have to suffer, to never know pain and hardship, but whether we want to admit it or not, suffering changes us, it enables us to set our priorities correctly, and it causes us to look to, and call upon God for help.

Call upon God to help you through your times of suffering, and know that He is with you no matter what you are going through.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to stand strong in Your Spirit no matter what suffering comes our way. Amen.

About The Author: Karlton Douglas lives in Ohio with his lovely wife. He has suffered many years from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Crohn’s Disease, and has found God’s grace in the midst of suffering.

This Ole Book

With his permission I share with you a sweet poem from my blogging friend Gregg Metcalf..

This Ole Book

It’s worn and it’s torn and it’s wrinkled from use
It’s covered and its’ smothered with loving abuse
It’s been packed and sacked and traveled this land
This ole book means more to me than a kingdom grand

Every page shows its age and smudges show the place
Where I’ve read and where it’s told the story of grace
I have heard this word through the voice of my God
This ole book means more to me than this earth of sod

That Jesus died and was crucified for me the verses tell
He gave his life and suffered strife to save me from hell
Grace upon grace and a kingdom in glory with the Father
This ole book means more to me than all earthly bother

This ole book is worth a look for its God’s letter to us
Don’t miss the call for it’s worth it all, all of the fuss
Read the story of heavenly glory given as gift to you
This ole book means more to me than any golden hue

When the angels came calling dad by name I knew
Where to find my peace and sweet release in you
Promises of old now cherished as gold I love them so
This ole book means more to me than all I know

Men of old, brave and bold have died to give us this book
Burned at the stake and hoping to break their loving look
At the pages from the ages with the story of God’s care
This ole book means more to me than any pleasant fare

Take all that I own even destroy my home if you must
All that I’ve got will suffer and rot or be given to rust
But leave with me I beg and plea just this one thing
This ole book means more to me than all I could sing

Please check out Gospel-driven Disciples, Gregg's blog, here.

When Christians Are Unchristian

This week I began reading When Christians Get it Wrong, a book written by Adam Hamilton, the leader of the church that I attend.
I thought that it might help me (and maybe even you) if I recapped the book chapter by chapter. Today I'll hit the highlights of chapter one (which has the same title as this post) and add a few comments along the way.

Adam begins by telling the story of John, a young man who is very disillusioned by the actions of Christians that he knows. Adam builds the chapter around the objections of John and others like him. Here are a few points that Adam makes:

Christians sometimes act like Pharisees: Adam tells us that the religious leaders of Jesus' day often acted like hypocrites.. a term that denotes a person who is a pretender. I find this idea of being a pretender an interesting one. It speaks to me of being something that you are not. Here are a few ways that people act this way:
  • Wrong Motives: Adam begins by addressing the heart of the matter. I can relate to doing the right things for the wrong reasons.
  • Pointing out the sin of others without seeing our own: Adam cites Jesus' admonition to take the log out of our own eye before we attempt to remove a speck from another's eye. I think that it is true that we act like a Pharisee when we sit in judgment on another person's soul.
  • Majoring on the Minors: I think that most of us can relate to emphasizing our pet doctrines. My favorite saying in this area is: "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity!"
  • Being Two Faced: Adam, referencing the cup that is clean on the outside and dirty on the inside, speaks to the issue of being one thing on the outside and something else on the inside. 
We are all recovering Pharisees: I wish that this is not true but I can relate to the idea of struggling in the four areas above. I agree with him when he says that Non-Christians understand that we are all hypocrites but do not like it when we act like we are not.

Getting it Right: Many do get it right.. they love sacrificially.. are filled by the Spirit and manifest His fruit all of the time. Adam speaks about Kathy, a beautician who regularly cuts hair for homeless people. I loved how he spoke of using our gifts to show the love of Christ to people who do not know Him - it is the way that Christians get is right.. it is the means that He often uses to draw people to Himself.