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Where Love and Justice Meet

Where Love and Justice Meet

Paul wrote, 

The wrath of God is being revealed from Heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness.Romans 1:18

He also wrote,

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.Ephesians 2:8

So, how can God punish the sin but give grace to the sinner?

Does God lower His standard so we can be forgiven?

No. God “does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17), and He “judges all people in the same

way” (Romans 2:11 NCV). Besides, to ignore our sin would be to endorse our sin. If our sin had no price, then we should just “do evil that good may result” (Romans 3:8). But this is not the aim of God. He does not compromise His holiness to enable our evil. 

Yet the dilemma remains. 

Holiness demands that sin be punished. Mercy compels that the sinner be loved. How can God do both?

An illustration might shed some light. Imagine being arrested and brought before a judge for a speeding violation — your third in two years. You admit your wrongdoing. You were speeding. Your palms are sweaty as you are called to enter the judge’s chamber. Once there, you wait for him render his decision.

“I have found a way to deal with your mistakes,” he says. “I can’t overlook them; to do so would be unjust.

I can’t pretend you didn’t commit them; to do so would be a lie. But here is what I can do. In our records, we have found a person with a spotless past. He has never broken a law. He has volunteered to trade records with you. We will take your name and put it on his record. We will take his name and put it on yours. We will punish him for what you did. You, who did wrong, will be made right. He, who did right, will be made wrong.”

Who is this person? What fool would do such a thing? For the sake of illustration, imagine if it were the judge himself. He is the one willing to substitute his spotless record for your flawed one. In the same way,

Jesus loves you so much that He was willing to give you His own “perfect driving record” (a sinless life) so that He could take on the punishment for your imperfect one. Like the judge in this illustration, He had no reason to do you a favor. He certainly wasn’t indebted to you. You were guilty, remember?

  • But He chose to take the penalty for your sin because of His love for you.

This is a love born from within Him, not from what He found in you. His love is uncaused and spontaneous. He did not love you because of your goodness, or kindness, or great faith. No, He loves you because of His goodness, kindness, and great faith.

John says it like this: 

This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us.1 John 4:10

Doesn’t this thought comfort you? God’s love does not hinge on yours. The abundance of your love does not increase His. The lack of your love does not diminish His. Your goodness does not enhance His love, nor does your weakness dilute it. What Moses said to Israel is what God says to us: 

The Lord did not set His heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! Rather, it was simply that the Lord loves you. Deuteronomy 7:7–8 NLT

God loves you simply because He has chosen to do so. He loves you when you don’t feel lovely. He loves you when no one else loves you. Others may abandon you, ignore you, and forget you, but God will love you.

Always. No matter what.

This is His sentiment:

I’ll call nobodies and make them somebodies; I’ll call the unloved and make them beloved. — Romans 9:25 MSG

This is His promise:

I have loved you, My people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to Myself. Jeremiah 31:3 NLT

God’s love goes the distance — and Jesus traveled from limitless eternity to be confined by time in order to become one of us.

He didn’t have to. He could have given up. At any step along the way, He could have called it quits.

When He saw the size of the womb, He could have stopped. When He saw how tiny His hands would be, how soft His voice would be, how hungry His tummy would be, He could have stopped. At the first whiff of the stinky stable, at the first gust of cold air. The first time He scraped His knee or blew His nose or tasted burnt bagels, He could have turned and walked out.

When He saw the dirt floor of His Nazareth house. When Joseph gave Him a chore to do. When His fellow students were dozing off during the reading of the Torah, His Torah. When the neighbor took His name in vain. When the lazy farmer blamed his poor crop on God. At any point Jesus could have said, “That’s it! That’s enough! I’m going home.” But He didn’t.

He didn’t, because He is love. And His love “always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:7). He endured the distance.

For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

We have done nothing to earn God’s love. Remember, as Paul said, “it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

Given this, it only stands to reason that we do not need to live in fear of losing God’s love. After all, if we did nothing to gain it, how could our performance (or lack thereof) lead to us losing it? Many people live in fear of God’s justice because they have never reckoned His justice with His love. Grace is where the two meet together, forming an insoluble bond.

Are you aware that the most repeated command from the lips of Jesus was “Fear not”? Are you aware that the command from Heaven not to be afraid appears in every book of the Bible? The apostle Paul points to the cross as our guarantee of God’s love: 

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

God proved His love for us by sacrificing His only Son. Formerly, God had sent prophets to preach. Now He has sent His Son to die. Earlier God commissioned angels to aid. Now He has offered His Son to redeem.

When we tremble, He points us to the splattered blood on the splintered beams and says, “Don’t be afraid.” 

The Heart of the Matter 

  • God cannot simply compromise His holiness to enable your sin.
  • God instead took the penalty for your sin because of His love for you.
  • God loves you simply because that is what He has chosen to do.
  • Nothing will ever be able to separate you from the love of God.

Memory Verse

and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. — Ephesians 3:19

The Heart of Jesus

He had places to go, things to do, people to see. He was on a road trip, speaking in local synagogues, seaside venues, and country hillsides throughout the region. He had a message to communicate, questions to answer, parables to compose. And when He wasn’t talking, He was listening. His chosen disciples, His closest friends, and even the religious rulers were vying for His time and attention.

Jesus was a busy man. How could He possibly take on one more responsibility? Where would He find the time to commit to one more ministry opportunity? Didn’t He deserve some downtime, some time off, some me-time? In the same situation, the last thing we would want to face is a crowd of needy people. Yet there He was, listening to stories of stiff joints and dimming sight. Holding the hand of the depressed and weary. Touching the faces of the desperate and dying. And did Jesus grit His teeth and smile through these interruptions to His schedule? Was he bored by hearing the same sorts of stories again and again? Did it bother Him that nobody seemed to care about His feelings, His problems, His needs? No, He understood that His mission was

to proclaim good news to the poor... and recovery of sight for the blind.Luke 4:18

Though confronted with a sea of faces, Jesus saw every individual heart, every precious life, every eternal soul through the eyes of love.

Excerpted with permission from Experiencing the Heart of Jesus by Max Lucado, copyright Max Lucado.

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Your Turn 

How did God reconcile our deep sin and His requirement for holiness? Jesus. Jesus bridged the chasm between us and relationship with our holy God. He stepped into flesh and blood and joined us as one of us. Isn’t that astonishing? He personally made His time available to the average and ordinary. You and me. Amazing. ~ Devotionals Daily