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You shall follow what is altogether just, that you may live and inherit the land which the Lord your God is giving you. (Deuteronomy 16:20)

In Jewish thought, any one who tramples on those who can’t defend themselves is seen as an enemy of God. In follow up to that thought, one Jewish commentator wrote, “Justice is the awe-inspired respect for the personality of others, and their inalienable rights.” This statement was actually made within the context of consideration for a condemned criminal, accentuating the point that even those who break the law are to be respected with an eye on true justice. For instance, Biblically speaking, a conviction requires two or more witnesses and their accusations must be confirmed. Even when a death penalty was required, a degree of respect was shown; e.g. those who were hung could not remain hanging over night (Deuteronomy 21:23).

The flip side of the coin is this: injustice exhibits a flagrant disrespect for the personality of others and their inalienable rights. Not only would the unjust trample on those who can’t defend themselves but might even attempt to trample on those who can. For instance, in today’s world, anyone who dares to resist the gay agenda is labeled as someone who is filled with “hate” and has no respect LGBTQ “rights.” In the meantime, the rights and positions of those who disagree are being trounced, all in the name of “harmony,” “tolerance” and “social justice.” If we consider that the Biblical view of Justice is equivalent to holiness, then social justice would be equivalent to “mingling” clean with unclean, holy and profane.

So as believers, how do we balance the position of standing for truth and righteousness and, at the same time, not becoming those who would dishonor God by disrespecting others, even though they are guilty of breaking God’s laws? Let’s consider this: there is a rabbinical adage that suggests, if God were to rule the Universe by strict judgment alone, it wouldn’t take long before there would be no Universe to rule — it would be destroyed. At the same time, if God were to rule the Universe strictly by mercy, the ensuing chaos would also bring the Universe to destruction. Therefore, God — who is Holy — rules with justice which is the appropriate balance of judgment tempered with mercy. This is how the judges of Israel were to rule because that is how God rules. According to our text, today, this standard is necessary that we might “live.”

When Messiah was confronted by those who presented the woman caught in adultery, He  did not condone her actions nor did He condemn her — He administered mercy. Strict judgment would have meant death then and there but God’s justice, always with an eye on restoration, included the ability to forgive with the words, “Go and sin no more.” And so as we strive to balance righteousness with mercy, let us remember the words of Micah: “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).

Blessings and Shalom,  




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