Category: Faith

Law or Mercy

Law or Mercy?

It’s Throwback Thursday! Law or Mercy previously appeared at International Christian Fiction Writers on 13 July 2016.

I recently had the opportunity (if that’s the right word) to serve my local community as the member of a jury, one of twelve men and women charged with determining whether a local man was guilty of robbery (spoiler: we agreed he was).

I found the whole process fascinating, and not just as a long-time fan of legal thrillers (and I’m pleased my jury service was nothing like Demi Moore’s, in The Jury by John Grisham). Our defendant, predictably, pleaded not guilty.

By the end of the trial I was convinced of two things:

  1. He was guilty
  2. He genuinely believed he hadn’t done anything that warranted a court appearance, let alone a guilty verdict.

I see the same thing in society: non-Christians who genuinely believe it’s enough to be a “good person”. That when the day of judgement comes, they’ll be on the high side of the scales of justice.

I won’t go into why I and the rest of the jury decided our defendant was guilty: It’s a requirement of jury service that we don’t talk about the case except in general terms, and that we don’t discuss the debates conducted in the privacy of the jury room. But I will comment on my perception of the defendant’s beliefs, based on what he said.

Guilty or Not Guilty?

The defendant believed he was innocent because he didn’t know New Zealand law considers the person who aids or abets or influences to be an equal party to the crime as the person who actually commits the crime. It didn’t matter that the defendant wan’t the robber, because the law gives no mercy.

In the same way, God’s law applies whether you know the law or not. Break God’s law, and we’re guilty.

But with God, there is mercy.

The defendant believed he was innocent because he knew nothing about the crime actually committed. He thought they were going to do a big robbery, not a small one. But he knew a crime was going to be committed, and the law gives no mercy.

In the same way, God’s law doesn’t take the severity of the sin into account. Break God’s law, and we’re guilty.

But with God, there is mercy.

The defendant believed he was innocent because the intended victim was a rival criminal, as if robbing a criminal is somehow less of a crime than robbing an innocent member of society. But the defendant intended to commit a crime, and the law gives no mercy.

In the same way, God’s law applies whether the sin was intentional or unintentional. Break God’s law, and we’re guilty.

But with God, there is mercy.

The defendant believed he was innocent because he hadn’t participated of his own free will—he was coerced. But he did participate, and the law gives no mercy.

In the same way, God’s law applies whether we are forced into sin or we walk into sin with our eyes wide open. Break God’s law, and we’re guilty.

But with God, there is mercy.

The Bible says that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, his standard. That if we fall in one area of the law, we are guilty of all. It’s guilty or not guilty. Black and white. Judgement is not a set of scales— being on the high side of the scales isn’t enough.

But the Bible also shows us a way out: Jesus. He has taken the punishment for our sin whether we know it or not, whether we believe it or not, whether we accept it or not.

All we have to do is acknowledge we have sinned and repent, believe Jesus paid the price for that sin, and accept His sacrifice in our place.

Hallelujah!

(As an aside, isn’t it an interesting contrast that in court, a defendant gives his testimony in an attempt to prove his innocence, but as Christians we give our testimony to our guilt and God’s forgiveness!)

Have you ever sat of a jury? What was your experience?