Connections 02.20.2022: Mercy and Justice

Luke 6:27-38

In this passage from Luke, Jesus urges us to display humility and mercy in our interactions with other people, seemingly turning justice upside down. He says to “do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (vv. 27-28). But he also says, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (v. 36). If we’re to be merciful like God is merciful, what does God’s mercy look like?

It looks like giving the first humans clothes after they disobeyed and were evicted from the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:21). Like saving one family and pairs of animals from a deadly worldwide flood (Gen 6:18-19). Like sparing Isaac at the very last moment, just when his father Abraham was about to kill him on the altar (Gen 22:11-12). Like giving Esther the wisdom to save her people after her husband, the king, decreed their deaths (Esth 7). Like bringing God’s Son Jesus Christ back to life after he suffered an excruciating death (Matt 28).

I could list dozens of instances of God’s mercy throughout the Bible. My point is that God’s mercy includes justice. That is, people must be held accountable for their wrongdoing. The guilty must suffer some consequences for their actions. When we read Jesus’ beautiful words about loving our enemies, turning the other cheek, and letting them take our clothing, we may feel discouraged. Abused and oppressed people may feel as if they’ve given so much of themselves that nothing remains of who they are. I’m not sure that’s what Jesus intended.

Jesus said to be merciful as God is merciful. We can show mercy while promoting justice. We can treat “the ungrateful and the wicked” (v. 35) with basic human kindness while also calling them to atone for their behaviors and actions. Jesus’ words here are not an excuse for evil to run rampant over the humble and merciful. They’re an injunction for us to see the humanity in everyone and to try, as much as possible, to treat others as we’d like to be treated (v. 31).

But we aren’t to do this to the point of risking our own lives and safety. God wants mercy and justice, and so should we.


• How do you understand God’s mercy? How do you understand God’s justice?
• In what ways did Jesus exemplify God’s mercy and justice in his interactions with sinful people?
• Do you think these words from Jesus can be abused and misinterpreted to trap people in harmful relationships? Can you think of examples of such situations?
• Why is it important to understand Jesus’ words here through the lens of his entire story?
• How can we promote both mercy and justice in our communities?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theater productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she writes middle grade and young adult fiction for the pure joy of it.


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