In the wake of the devastating earthquake that destroyed much of Haiti in 2010, one philosopher wrote, “For those who believe in an all-good, all-powerful God, we’ve seen that they face a question that remains pressing after all these centuries, and which is now horribly underscored by the horrors in Haiti. If a deity exists, why didn’t he prevent this?”
Most people have an innate desire for justice and empathize when something unjust happens to the innocent. They also desire for mercy to be shown when adversity strikes. When we perceive that either of these two things is missing, the human response is often anger and blaming God for not doing what we think He should have done.
The scene at the cross is the ultimate convergence of justice and mercy, and if viewed dispassionately, it’s the end of any arguments about God’s justice and His mercy: Both are fulfilled there. But here we also have human nature on full display when confronted by the face of God. One “criminal” hurls insults and denies Jesus (Luke 23:39). It appears that the other owns his own shame and asks that the Savior remember him (Luke 23:42). Did he think he would inherit “paradise”? (Luke 23:43). Hardly. He simply wanted some token of mercy.
Sometimes, especially amidst personal adversity or when learning of great human tragedy, we can become the scoffing thief—hurling insults and embracing disbelief because it looks as if God has no power or is unwilling to step in and save the day. The humble thief responded in the only acceptable way, however, as should we all: He was aware of his well-deserved condemnation and asked in humility for Jesus to respond to his need—seeking mercy rather than reward. By God’s grace he received both!
NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: 2 Timothy 1:1-18
Read the parable of the workers in Matthew 20:1-16 and consider how Jesus shows mercy to all who come to Him.
How can you show your gratitude for the mercy and grace God has shown to you? Why is it vital that you seek to live out both God’s justice and mercy?