Justice and grace

Last week a trailer was released for the upcoming film ‘The Grace Card’. It seems to be a ‘Christian’ film, but many things about it leave me far from convinced that it will accurately portray the Christian gospel. The worst of all was a line in the trailer which sounded like a pivotal moment in the film.

It’s not justice we need. It’s grace!It's not justice we need. It's grace!

What a horrible false dichotomy is introduced here! Are justice and grace mutually exclusive? This seems to be the suggestion of the film. I don’t want to be too harsh, given I’ve merely seen a trailer rather than the full film, but it strikes me that this quote undermines all that is good about the God of the Bible.

God doesn’t abandon justice in favour of grace. This would be a cheap form of grace, which would reveal an arbitrary and unjust god. This is not the God of the Bible. This is not the Christian God. Quite the opposite.

God does extend grace through Jesus’ death, but not at the expense of justice. If there was no need for justice, why would Jesus have died? Why not simply forgive everyone all their sins? That would show grace; but what a terrible, grotesque, unjust grace it would be! This is not the grace referred to in Ephesians 2:8, quoted in the NIV at the end of the film trailer.

For it is by grace you have been saved.

The grace by which Christians have been saved is a grace which includes justice. Romans 3:26 speaks of God not only as the justifier (by grace) of the one with faith in Jesus, but also the one who is just. The reason for Jesus’ death was to provide a means of grace which did not contravene God’s perfect justice.

It is indeed grace we need, but we also receive justice from God. Praise the Lord!

The injustice of it all

A recent article in the metro newspaper brought to my attention the abuse of official credit cards by a large number of police officers. For a few days after the article was published the letters page was full of indignant contributions from readers, appalled at the news that most of the officers involved would not be disciplined, but given more training. The story brought to the fore the strong sense of justice clearly felt by the metro’s readers (who all conveniently ignored the facts that all the officers who broke the law are being prosecuted, and the ones being given training have either paid back the money, or were justified in making their purchase but should have followed a different procedure).

Even though laws were not broken, it was felt that the officers had behaved wrongly and should therefore be punished. We have all, as people, done wrong, breaking God’s laws. Despite this, many people don’t think they deserve any punishment from Him. We are happy to point the finger at others and highlight their wrongdoing while defending our own. Trevor Carlisle, the pastor of the church I am part of in Reading, often uses the example of left over food to demonstrate this point. My left over food is merely a few chips I didn’t want, but someone else’s is a disgusting mess of vile rubbish they couldn’t be bothered to eat. We love to point out the error of others, but not of ourselves.

God does not do this. He is an impartial judge, and will not turn a blind eye to wrongdoing. It doesn’t matter how small the crime. It doesn’t matter how important the culprit. All are equally culpable before God, and will be punished. Unless, of course, the punishment has already been taken.

Further reading on the theme of justice, from one of my favourite blogs: http://archbishop-cranmer.blogspot.com/2009/08/eye-for-tooth.html