I have always been afraid of God's justice. Justice, as I understood it, a close relative of vengeance and punishment. Justice meant sinners in the hands of an angry God. It was a God so angry with us that He had to punish. Fortunately, Jesus offered to take our punishment. Now, God could offer us the mercy He couldn't give us before. In my understanding, we either receive justice or mercy, not both.
Because I was afraid of justice for myself, and because I knew we were to bless those who curse us, I would ask God to be merciful to those who hurt me. I would pray for Him to deal with them in His mercy, not His justice. Jesus told us to pray, "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us." I wanted my sins forgiven, so I endeavored to forgive the sins of others. But that 70 times 7 times gets hard!
Three years ago, I was in the midst of the stormy sea. We kept being pulled over by police for speeding when we knew we weren't speeding. They wanted a bribe, of course. We didn't want to pay a bribe, so Joshua wasted time at a farcical court only to be fined anyway. We had a houseworker who would come to our house and tell me everything others were doing wrong. She would also tell me everything she thought I was doing wrong. I had a pretty good idea what she would be telling others when she left my house. Our water kept disappearing because the city council liked to eat the money they were supposed to administrate. This list could go on. I could include my own sins, like my girls saying that Mommy was yelling at them more. Oh, I wanted to stop yelling. I was begging God to help me be victorious. Oh, I wanted unfairness to stop. But in both cases, I kept praying diligently that God would deal with me and with others in His mercy, not His justice.
Things only grew worse, and then God became silent. I had heard Him say that He wanted to remove the roots, and I had the parable of the gardener growing in my mind, but for three or four months, I stopped hearing God's voice. Oh, I longed for His voice!
I remember sitting on my bed one day, thinking and examining my heart. I was tired of praying for mercy. I was tired of people wronging us. But even more, I was tired of wronging my family. I remembered my youngest sister telling me I was afraid of justice. Now my youngest sister and I, the oldest daughter in our family, had opposite problems. She was afraid of mercy because she had been "favored" as a child. She felt it had kept her from growing as she should have. I had been the one who was held responsible if I or any of the younger children erred, so I was afraid of justice, which I identified with punishment, harshness, and, well, injustice.
Well, as I sat there on my bed, looking at my heart, I saw that my heart wanted justice! My heart didn't care whether it was religiously correct to pray for God to be just to those offending me. My heart wanted justice for myself and those hurting me as well as for my family, whom I was hurting. So I prayed, "Father, I have been praying for mercy because I am afraid of justice, but really, I just want justice. Please show me your justice."
Immediately, I heard God speak, "I am faithful and just to forgive your sins and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness." Now I know that is not the whole verse, but it is what God spoke into my heart that moment, and it set my heart free to dance. God's justice isn't vengeance and punishment. It is forgiveness and cleansing. I thought God's justice toward us was fulfilled on the cross, with Christ bearing our punishment, but that was only movement towards fulfillment. The fulfillment of justice is forgiveness and cleansing.
Mercy and justice have kissed. I don't have to override my heart anymore, forcing myself to pray for mercy, not justice. I can pray for God to be just with those who have wronged me, and it isn't a prayer against them, for vengeance. Instead, it is a prayer on their behalf, for forgiveness and cleansing. Even more than that, I can pray it for myself! I had been begging for cleansing, but I had been asking God not to do it in His justice. Yet justice, together with faithfulness, is the very part of His character which gives forgiveness and cleansing. My confused prayer was rather like asking my husband to kiss me without using his lips! Praise God for His faithfulness and justice! Praise God for forgiving our sins and for cleansing us from all unrighteousness!