The God of Justice and the God of Mercy

It isn’t easy to keep the two aspects of God in balance, the God of Justice and the God of Mercy. Some felt uneasy about Pope Francis call for a Year of Mercy in 2016. It is all very well talking about a forgiving and merciful God but what about the God who calls us to justice? The God that demands that we do the right thing or suffer the consequences.

In today’s reading from the book of Wisdom we read “Secure in strength, you judge with mildness and govern us with great lenience.” It seems that some think that there is a danger in being lenient. If you are too lenient then it might mean that a person might think they can get away with things. Do you remember the old saying “spare the rod and spoil the child.” The wonderful picture we are given today is of a God who always gives us a chance to repent of sins and mistakes. If this is true of God it must also hold true to us as well. As one writer points out, God acts with leniency precisely because he is powerful. That’s why he gives us a chance to repent when we have sinned.

In acting in this way, God also instructs us that those who are just must be kind. This leads us to today’s Gospel of the darnel and wheat. In the parable the farmer tells the servant to leave the two very similar plants to grow together until harvest time. It is as if one is allowing evil to continue. Why doesn’t God root it out and get rid of it at once? By allowing the two to grow together God is showing his power. God doesn’t worry about whether the weeds will ruin the harvest, it is his harvest and he will see to it that it is good. In leaving the darnel to grow alongside the wheat God is giving the wicked a chance to repent and to change. It isn’t because God finds it difficult to put things right, or that evil is more powerful than good, but it’s because God is God, who shows his power by his leniency towards those who have done wrong. Here is a God who is generous to us his children even when we are misbehaving.

What a great arm and heartfelt psalm we have today. Psalm 86 (Greek 85).

“O Lord, you are good and forgiving, full of mercy to all who call upon you. You, O God, are compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, O Lord, abundant in mercy and fidelity; turn and take pity on me. O Lord give me comfort and help.”

Canon Father Anthony Charlton
Canon Father Anthony CharltonParish Priest