The Law and the Prophets: Part 1–Seek Justice, Love Mercy

The Law and the Prophets: Part 1–Seek Justice, Love Mercy December 18, 2023


The Lord always does right and wants justice done. Everyone who does right will see his face. Psalm 11:7 (CEV)



Last May, we defined justice as “getting what you deserve.”


However, from the quote above, we can see that the Bible has more than one definition of justice, depending on the translation. It wouldn’t make sense to interpret that God wants to see everyone get what they deserve, when His Word clearly states:


He doesn’t want to destroy anyone but wants all people to have an opportunity to turn to him and change the way they think and act. 2 Peter 3:9b (GW)


Instead, what the verse is saying is that the Lord does right, so that everyone who does what He does, having been created in His own image, will get to be with Him. With this context, we can see that “justice” is referring to righteous  deeds, that is, deeds done in the name of Jesus.


Now we also have established that salvation is by grace alone, and that through faith. Our righteous deeds do not save us; rather, they are the evidence of our salvation. Our making the decision to follow God and join Him in His work is what leads us to a state of righteousness.


Taking that into consideration, we can see that there is no separation between being “saved” and acting justly. Doing justice (acting righteously) is the evidence of our salvation, because we are reflecting the image of the One who created us, the One who always does what is just.


Justice and Righteousness


Abraham is a perfect example of how this plays out. Back when Abraham was still “Abram,” God made him a promise regarding the abundance of his descendants. Abram believed this promise, even though he had no logical reason to do so. Genesis 15:6 says, “Abram believed, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”


People frequently cite this example when explaining salvation by faith, but there is more going on here. Abram’s act of faith entered him into a covenant with God. God bound Himself with a promise because Abram fulfilled his part of the covenant, which was to believe and conform to God’s plan. Therefore, the “righteousness” with which he was “credited” is something like a legal standing. Abram isn’t just a good guy; he has a distinct position because of his act of faith.


In other words, he did the right thing, and it had a good result. His salvation was through God’s grace, but it was also an act of justice. Abram got what he deserved because he did what God expected him to do.


A poster presentation of Micah 6:8
(Martin LaBar/flickr)

Seek Justice, Love Mercy

The prophet Micah, in chapter 6 of the book bearing his name, asks rhetorically what we have to do to get God’s attention and earn His forgiveness. Then he answers his own question, saying:


The Lord has shown you what is good. He has told you what he requires of you. You must act with justice. You must love to show mercy. And you must be humble as you live in the sight of your God. Micah 6:8 (NIRV)


The key word in that quote is “act.”  God wants us to do justice, not just think happy thoughts about it. And how do we do that?


The simplest way is to stop thinking of ourselves first. God wants us to think of Him first, because of who He is. Next, as written in Philippians 2:4, He wants us to “look out for each other’s interests and not just for your own.”


Doing this can be temporarily inconvenient, but it will yield great rewards.


How to Show Mercy

Do to others what you would want them to do to you. If you love only the people who love you, what praise should you get? Even sinners love the people who love them. If you do good only to those who do good to you, what praise should you get? Even sinners do that! If you lend things to people, always hoping to get something back, what praise should you get? Even sinners lend to other sinners so that they can get back the same amount! But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without hoping to get anything back. Then you will have a great reward, and you will be children of the Most High God, because he is kind even to people who are ungrateful and full of sin. Show mercy, just as your Father shows mercy. Luke 6:31-36 (NCV)


Many people believe in the Golden Rule—Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Yet, it seems that many folks are waiting to be done unto before they do any doing.


In the passage above, Jesus is advocating a totally different strategy—mercy. Mercy is not concerned with everyone behaving properly or with showing favoritism toward those who do.


As Christians, we are called to set ourselves apart by being merciful as our Father is merciful.


So what does that look like?


Romans 5:8 says, “…while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Jesus didn’t wait for us to get in line to meet His standard (which is impossible anyway). He didn’t ask, or even consider, what we could do for Him. He went first.


This is probably the easiest way to define mercy—mercy goes first. Mercy looks to the needs of others, and sets about meeting them before considering anything else.


This doesn’t come naturally to most of us. In our culture, we’re used to “getting what we paid for.”  If we are going to exchange our money, time, or talent, we generally expect to get something in return. For this reason, it seems natural for us to think about how we’re going to be paid back before we make an investment.


The thing is the people who are the most in need of mercy tend to be the ones who CAN’T pay you back. But they CAN pay your mercy forward.




Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you relied on someone else’s mercy, knowing you wouldn’t be able to reciprocate? You might have felt gratitude at first, but later, the sense of indebtedness might have made you feel guilty.


Don’t go there. There’s a better way. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do for the person who helped you out, think instead of what you ARE able to do for someone else who is in a more desperate situation than you are. There’s always someone.


Here’s the catch, though.


The person most in need of your mercy might be someone you don’t like.


This is where the “love your enemies” bit comes in.   Jesus never asked us to LIKE our enemies. Remember though that agape love is not a feeling; it is an action.   As such, it is perfectly possible to show mercy toward someone who has been adversarial to us, even if there’s still a part of us that wants to push them down the stairs.


But here’s the part we all need to remember. We were just as adversarial to God when He chased us down. He continues to bless us, even when we don’t thank Him. So if we are endeavoring to be “sons of the Most High,” we shouldn’t be standing around waiting for thanks either. It feels nice to be appreciated, but remember, this is not the goal of mercy.


This is mercy–to listen with compassion to the people who annoy you the most in order to learn what their greatest burden is, then to speak only that which will help relieve them of that burden, and if that is not possible, to remain silent and allow God to do His work in them, rather than burden them further with opinions and judgment.


And that is what God offers to us all day, every day. Think about that for a second. How does it make you feel to know that you don’t ever have to put on a fake face for God to receive His mercy?


Now how does it make you feel to know that you have the power to make somebody else feel a little bit of that?  So go and do it. And focus more on the “you’re welcome” than the “thank you.”


More applications of the Golden Rule to follow in Part 2. Click on the Free Newsletter Link to be notified when it’s ready to read!

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