Practicing Justice Through Mercy and Forgiveness

Jimmy Buffet once wrote in a song, “Relationships, we all got ‘em, we all want ‘em.  What do we do with ‘em?”  While he was talking specifically about romantic relationships, I think his sentiments could be pointed at the root desire of everyone, which is being in communion with others.  God created us to be in communion, so it is no surprise that all of our struggles contain a dimension of relationship issues.

One answer in relieving the struggles is to understand God’s justice and how it relates to our relationships.  Our society today conditions us to make judgments first and then perhaps later find out the truth behind a person.  Along with that it seems like somewhere in our middle school years we learn to judge first has a defense, or social survival method.  If we never move beyond influences like these in our life, and look at relationships with God’s justice, I think we are destined to struggle.

Justice here is defined as “a moral quality or habit, which perfects the will and inclines it to render to each and to all what belongs to them” (Catholic Encyclopedia). That which most certainly belongs to each person is the dignity and worth given to them by God. That does not render them faultless, nor sinless. It does place upon us the responsibility in our relationships of practicing justice towards them. In doing so, we may be bringing them, and ourselves, closer in relationship with Christ.

All of us have made decisions in our past that we would rather not let people know about because they may reject us.  On the other side, there have been people in our lives who have revealed parts of their lives, which made us want to reject them.  God’s justice asks us to show mercy and forgiveness towards others and ourselves.  Lack of forgiveness traps a person within a space in time.  Showing justice through God’s mercy, we can help set that person free from that decision or habit, and allow them to move on to truly live in the dignity God gave them.

In order to practice God's justice we need to begin by suspending judgment on others. This is difficult in a world where, whether we publicly subscribe to it or not, our society trains us to make a judgment first, and perhaps show mercy later.  One of the most telling scriptures showing God’s justice through mercy is the woman caught in adultery (John 8).   The people were quick to judge her and dispense worldly justice.  Christ never said she was not committing a sin.  In fact, he ends by telling her to go and sin no more.  His justice requires mercy.  In our relationships we to need to practice God’s justice by first showing God’s mercy.

Ask yourself these questions:  Do I show God’s justice to others?  Am I willing to look beyond where a person has been to where they are and want to be?  What are some common judgments I pass on others?

**This article was written for Today's Disciple (a magazine published by my parent's church in Orlando, FL: St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church).  

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