Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Justice or mercy?

In idle moments in the Stranz-Brown household we pose the question "Justice or mercy - which would you rather have?"
Tonight I've been reflecting on this difficult question - which of these two virtues is more important in ethical decision-making, or even just in ordinary decision-making? It depends on many things, including the situation. Our household is united in choosing justice rather than mercy if that is the choice. This blog has a justice tag but not a mercy tag, yet justice can be merciful.
I'm not sure what it is we think this says about us but justice rather than mercy is it. Just a way of trying to follow some kind of path through the morass of life and faith.
"Do Justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God" Micah 6.8

I've just realised that at our wedding we sang these wonderful words by Isaac Watts, suggesting that maybe this is a false dichotomy:

Thy truth and justice I'll proclaim;
thy bounty flows an endless stream
thy mercy swift, thine anger slow
but dreadful to the stubborn foe.

(Tune St Bartholomew, please don't sing it to Rockingham - the links here are particularly cheesy and schmaltzy versions!)

So which is it for you, justice or mercy?


Hansuli John Gerber said...

Intuitively I choose mercy if it had to choose one over the other. Perhaps simply because it's easier? Justice is complicated and messy... But I agree with you, mercy and justice go together - perhaps justice flows more easily when preceded or incited/invited by mercy

By the way, I enjoy your blog, Jane, thanks!

Jane said...

Hey Hansuli - great to see your new blog too - you know I think that for me choosing justice means that mercy is about much more than just "being nice" ...

janetlees said...

Yes, it's mercy for me personally, but justice for me communally - if you see what I mean. when i face one way it's one, but the other way round it's the other. Then by 'turning, turning we'll come round right'. I used those words from Micah at the Service of Thanksgiving for my mum's life back in September 2007. they are very powerful.

Jane said...

I used the same words on the service sheet for my Dad's funeral - I knew you read the Hebrew scriptures really despite claims to the contrary!