The Quality of Mercy: Stories of Justice and Reconciliation (Open Forum) – Gospel in Life

The Quality of Mercy: Stories of Justice and Reconciliation (Open Forum)

Tim Keller |  February 27, 2000

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  • Mercy & Justice
  • Forgiveness
OF 22


We have all faced these questions at some point or another … How can you live with both justice and mercy in the world? Can mercy and justice be combined? Can forgiveness and justice be combined? I’m not sure that immediately grabs you as one of the great problems in your life or in the culture, but it is.

We have at least two problems, and I’m going to show you it’s because of a third. We have a problem of public justice. In public justice, when one group has really wronged another group, should there be forgiveness? How can there be forgiveness and justice?
On the other hand, personally, if someone has wronged you, how can there be both forgiveness and at the same time justice?

Let’s break this down, and let’s show there’s a problem of public justice, there’s a problem in the area of private justice, and it’s all because there’s a huge problem with perfect justice.

Exodus 17

Understanding how to mix fairness and kindness in our lives, especially in public and personal situations, is a tricky task. This challenge is split into three parts: public fairness, private fairness, and perfect fairness. The struggle between fairness and kindness is a key theme, giving us tips on how to juggle this tricky act.

1. Public fairness is difficult

Forgiving others in public situations is hard, often seen as both impossible and necessary. This difficulty in forgiving is clear in cases like slavery or international conflicts, where the hurt of past wrongs still remains. Ongoing disagreements over things like affirmative action emphasize the conflict between different views of fairness, showing the need for forgiveness to help healing, societal safety, and prevention of more harm.

2. Private fairness is also tough

Forgiveness is a tough issue, balancing between personal vulnerability and public fairness. It has two sides; it may seem noble, but it can also leave one open to more harm, yet not forgiving gives the wrongdoer power. This struggle between forgiveness and fairness is a common issue, shown by a man who, because of his own bad experiences, didn’t let his kids go to church, keeping under the power of his unforgiven past.

3. Perfect fairness is a huge problem

The idea of perfect fairness is tricky, dealing with the self-focus in human nature and the chance for oppression when such fairness is sought. The Christian viewpoint advises a balanced strategy, stressing the importance of forgiveness, self-understanding, and the chase for fairness without revenge. In the end, it’s God who is the ultimate judge, giving forgiveness and asking believers to humbly bring fairness into the world.



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