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Excuses, Justice and Mercy

“Justice!” is the cry of the victims. How many times have we seen victims exiting our courts concerned that justice has not been done? As a society we want justice and yet it sometimes seems so hard to achieve. When businesses cheat, when accidents happen, when violent crimes are committed the victims and their families cry for justice.

It is only right and proper that people want justice. But of course not everyone wants it all the time. Victims want justice but the guilty certainly do not. In fact this is the last thing that they want. They should prefer leniency, mercy or pardon.

Yet strangely this is often not their plea. Often they deny their guilt and claim that all the facts of the situation have not been considered. They claim it was an unavoidable accident, that they have had a tough life, a dysfunctional upbringing, that someone else lead them astray or that they had a genetic predisposition towards it. “It was bad company that led me astray!”

Making excuses is a universal sin itself. We want to avoid the pain of punishment and it is often easier to add lying to our list of faults rather than accept the suffering, even when it is deserved. If we deny our guilt long enough it can even lead to us believing our own “innocence” plea. Yet our guilt remains an uncomfortable subject that we wish would go away.

Ironically the pain of punishment is an essential part of justice. Justice involves paying for our mistakes, the guilty receiving their just deserts for their crimes.

The wonderful news of Christmas (and Easter) is that Jesus achieved both justice and mercy at the same time. Justice happens when by his wounds we are healed – he substituted himself in our place to pay the punishment that we deserve for our sins (1 Peter 3:18).

Mercy happens when he rose no more to die so that we could live. (Ephesians 2:8-10) In doing so God maintains both his justice and his mercy and turns aside his own anger due to our sin.

So we do not need to make excuses before God. We are guilty and because of Jesus coming into the world in human flesh we can face our guilt and our judge with honesty. We know our guilt and we know the justice and mercy lavished upon us.