…By Human Standards
I understand that this post may seem controversial, but I think most Christians would agree with the arguments I’m about to bring forth. You see, I’ve contemplated the view of God’s justice that has been interpreted through human law and it just doesn’t match up with the principles laid out in the Torah or even the interpretation that came out of Jesus’ day. So, when I read Romans, Hebrews or any other letters by Paul explaining the terms of God’s justice everything ties together more clearly with a model of justice that is restorative rather than retributive. The problem is that we humans don’t think in terms of restorative/healing justice. Let me explain with the following points:
His Mercy Never Ends
Relevant scriptures: Psalm 136, 1 Chronicles 16:34, Psalm 100:5, Jeremiah 33:11
Justice says that those who break the law may at most get the “three strikes” rule before receiving final punishment. Justice doesn’t leave room for mercy because mercy contradicts justice. For a judge to tell a defendant that he does not have to pay for his crime would be ludicrous in our society, but that’s what God does by forgiving us. St. Isaac of Syria says:
Mercy and justice in one soul is like a man who worships God and the idols in one house. Mercy is opposed to justice. Justice is the equality of the even scale, for it gives to each as he deserves; and when it makes recompense, it does not incline to one side or show respect of persons. Mercy, on the other hand, is a sorrow and pity stirred up by goodness, and it compassionately inclines a man in the direction of all; it does not requite a man who is deserving of evil, and to him who is deserving of good it gives a double portion. If, therefore, it is evident that mercy belongs to the portion of righteousness, then justice belongs to the portion of wickedness. As grass and fire cannot co-exist in one place, so justice and mercy cannot abide in one soul. As a grain of sand cannot counterbalance a great quantity of gold, so in comparison God’s use of justice cannot counterbalance His mercy.
He Gave His Entire Life For Us
When we say that God came to us, I don’t think we can entirely process what that means. Jesus was fully God and fully human so He emptied Himself to be with us. He didn’t do it out of pity, but out of love. Did God need to become human to identify with His creation? No. He’s God, so He could already know all of our human struggles.
And yet, He did one better than just identifying with us. He became what we are. He did it so that we could enter into His divine presence forever. He died and sacrificed Himself to defeat sin and death. Even Paul says that this is nothing like a human ideal, “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man—though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:7, RSV)
So, for God to be just there is no reason he even had to come be with us. He didn’t have to defeat sin. He didn’t have to defeat death. He didn’t have to die. But He did, because He loved us. He is the Great Physician and rather than getting a punishment we deserved, He took on our affliction and destroyed it. All we need to do is accept this gift of salvation.
Your accumulated offenses do not surpass the multitude of God’s mercies; your wounds do not surpass the Great Physician’s skill. – St. Cyril of Jerusalem