Yesterday’s post was entitled Grace versus Justice – but a lovely blog reader has (rightly) pulled me up on it; because they are not opposed. So along with the original post, I’ve added her comments, and tried to clarify with some of my own.
Here’s what I’d originally written:
Justice arrives 45 minutes early, wearing a scowl. Then she outstays her welcome by several years. Grace whisks you away for a weekend break. She’s arranged your babysitters and insists on paying.
Justice hollers from the sidelines, “Harder, faster, stronger, not like that!” then pulls you from the team with a sigh of exasperation. Grace doesn’t seem to have noticed your match-losing incompetence. She’s made a banner with your name on it and shouts it with abandon: “WOOHOO!”
Justice helps you carry your load. Not literally of course. She provides clear instruction: “Straight back, bent legs… You’re lifting wrong, but don’t drop it – just four more flights. Chop chop.” Grace has called reception, tipped the porter, ordered cocktails and will meet you by the pool.
Justice gives a starving man a cook book. Grace gives him a steak.
Justice says: “Nearly there, don’t blow it now.” Grace says “It’s all in the past.”
Justice says: “Study hard.” Grace says “School’s out.”
Justice says: “I’ve been watching you.” Grace says “I can’t take my eyes off you.”
Justice says: “You’re on your own.” Grace says “You’re mine.”
Here’s to Grace..
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. (Romans 5:1-2)
My friend, S, points out
“Justice is not mean-spiritedness, or harshness, as you characterise it; justice is an attribute of God and part of our calling (to act justly, love mercy, walk humbly – Micah 6). Justice is something the oppressed long for. Grace can be given to us precisely because God is just and poured out his justice on His son. Grace then compels us and empowers us to live justly. Hence all Paul’s exhortations to run the race with perseverance, to fight and to stand (Phil.3.14, 1 Tim 6, Ephesians 6.14), Jesus’ call to bear fruit in keeping with repentance and the beautiful song of Psalm 119.32 “I will run in the path of your commandments for you have set my heart free”.
Your opposition of grace and justice seems to imply that grace makes life easy and fun, but that justice makes things impossibly hard. We both know that grace often makes things more complicated, though it brings real peace. And it is also true that self-justifying law keeping can bring the immediate pleasures of pride and control, though it ends up in slavery. You quote Romans 5 which is radiantly full of hope and acceptance, but as the chapter progresses it connects this faith with perseverance, suffering and God’s glory. Grace guarantees us Jesus and His Glory, which we taste as we suffer and persevere. “
What I should have said…
When I used the labels of justice and grace, I meant to draw a contrast between living under the righteous judgement of the law and the freely given goodness of Jesus. But I didn’t explain this! Instead of using “justice”, I should have said, “Living under the law” or “Living under condemnation” or “Trying to fulfil God’s requirements in my own strength.” These things are the opposite of grace – and this is what I meant by “justice.” It was a very clumsy explanation – and S, you’re absolutely right to remind me and us that God’s justice is really, really good. In fact, God’s grace is shown THROUGH His justice. At the cross Jesus pays the price for our sin…and it’s then that we can receive His mercy.
So…dear S – thanks for taking the time to correct me. And readers, thanks for your patience. Please pray that I’ll be teachable, wise and careful with what I say. Work in progress…