Justice and mercy are so intertwined that they depend on each other for their individual validity yet most of us declare that we come down for one over the other. We claim titles or platforms affiliated with political parties as well as economic, religious and geographic positions to indicate our leanings one way or another. It can never be either justice or mercy, it necessarily has to be justice and mercy or they both collapse.
The idea of justice is one that there is a price to pay for the bad decisions that we make; consequences for our choices. This is necessary for self-preservation as well as societal order, not to mention inherently part of our internal knowledge of Good and evil. No matter the culture you are part of anywhere in the world, there is knowledge that some things are “good” and some things are “bad” so those things result in laws or expectations that govern. To allow individuals to step out-of-bounds on those governed areas of expectation without consequence would result in chaos where there is no reasonable prediction of interaction among members of the community.
Justice unleashed with fury to benefit society and serve only as a deterrent for others who might consider similar conduct robs us of freedom. Mercy is required to consider the individual’s circumstances and potential as well as to ensure that the punishment fits the crime. Mercy considers an individual’s opportunity for redemption and provides balance to justice’s societal governance to ensure freedom and order.
Individually, these ideas play out in our raising of children, running of business and interaction with others. We want mercy, so we show mercy in appropriate measure. We also want justice so we demand justice in appropriate measure. When one side goes too far; when we forget the person on the other side of the mistake or don’t hold them accountable, then things are out-of-order and destruction of families, businesses, friendships, etc. takes place.
It’s not either/or; it’s both/and. We need both and we need to offer both as we consider relationships and endeavors we are involved in. You can’t give away what you have never received so it’s important to realize the Mercy we have received as we declare our appetites for justice. At the same time, it’s just as important to recognize the need for justice to validate mercy and preserve Order to avoid accommodation of “wrong.” Absolute declaration of one over the other results in losing both in our relationships as well as our culture; we owe it to our own preferences to measure our views with appropriate reason.