Justice … Mercy … Grace.
Three religious words, three sacred concepts, three spiritual movements of one powerful story. As you carefully think through these three words its one thing to consider their individual meanings. But more importantly, for my purpose in this moment, consider how they fit together. How do they flow one to the other? How does one open the door of meaning for the next? And what story do they tell together?
To answer these questions consider this simple set of definitions that can tighten up our sense of gratitude and responsibility as they show us the very heart of God.
Justice = Getting what we deserve.
Mercy = Not getting what we deserve.
Grace = Getting what we do not deserve.
Perhaps it’s the blessing of living in this country, or having good, supportive relationships, or being in reasonably good health, or some other evidence that our life is both happy and healthy. But whatever the reason, it has become just too easy to slide over from the humble feeling of being blessed to the expectation, or even demand, that we are entitled to all that we have. This is when its good to remember where we would be and what our life would look like, without the kindness and compassion of our Father above. You see, true Justice demands that we get what we deserve. Complete justice requires that, in spite of the entitlement myth, we receive every consequence, every punishment and every heartache that our sins, faults and failures have created. This is living under justice.
But Mercy changes all of this, because mercy is not getting what we deserve. Instead, Jesus takes the consequence of our failure. And so, now imagine living in mercy, having escaped justice and punishment. What is it like, what does it mean to live a forgiven life, where justice has given way to mercy?
But there is more. Continue to follow the flow. Notice how Grace moves us even deeper into the heart of God as it takes us much further than escape from justice. Grace is getting what we do not deserve. Grace is relationship. Grace is partnership. Grace is being trusted. Paul personified grace when he wrote, “the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say … and to live…” (Titus 2:11-12). This grace is alive, talking to us and living before us. So much more than escape is occurring here. We are included, received, embraced and welcomed. Truly grace is getting what we do not deserve.
We praise you Father for moving us out of justice, through mercy, into the nurturing relationship of grace.