Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Justice Called, Mercy Answered

It seems like the media has had it out for law enforcement officers this past year. We have heard the hyped-up accounts of police brutality—from the Michael Brown crisis in Ferguson, MO, to race riots in Baltimore, MD over the Freddie Gray incident, to the uproar caused by an SC resource officer who used force to deal with a belligerent student. We all know that our police officers face intense situations which most citizens don’t fully understand. Are there crooked cops? Yes, just like there are bad apples in every profession. But, why all the negative press for our public servants? When was the last time you heard the media present law enforcement in a positive light?

Not long ago, I was encouraged when I came across the story involving officer Justin Roby of London, KY. He was on-duty at a local Kroger grocery store when he caught a man shoplifting. However, he quickly discovered the alleged thief needed a helping hand, not handcuffs. The man was caught trying to take-off with a can of infant formula.

After some questioning, Roby discovered that the thief was going through financial hardship and was having difficulty providing for his infant son. This led both Roby and the store to decide not to press charges against the man.

“Me citing him for court wouldn’t have done any good for him,” Roby said. “He’s already short on money, can’t afford formula, so me making him appear in court, he’s still not going to have any food for that baby.” Rather than arrest the man, Roby decided to help him instead by buying the baby formula himself.

“You put yourself in the situations,” Roby said. “I think, ‘Well, what if that was me?” Officer Roby continued, “I think when some people look at us, they see just the uniform and the car, and the tools that we have on our belt. But, I’m a person out in this community just like any of them. I have a little boy. I’m a father just like that gentleman was. We’re not robots. There’s a human behind the badge.”[1]

What Roby did for that man is a clear illustration of the Gospel. Before Chris we were like that criminal without hope and help. We have broken God’s law. Standing before a perfect, holy Judge we have no case to argue. “Guilty, your Honor” is our only plea. However, in God’s courtroom we do not get the justice we deserve, instead we get the grace we don’t deserve and can’t earn. That’s because Jesus steps forward as our representative and pays the fine for us. With his own blood, Christ has settled our case. Justice called, but mercy answered.  

1 Peter 3:18 says it like this, “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God.” Paul added in Ephesians, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (2:4-5).

I am reminded of an old Gospel hymn, “When Justice Called, Mercy Answered.”

Once I was lost; down deep in sin
But Christ my Lord; then took me in
My soul was on destruction's road
Then Christ came in and took my load

For justice called and mercy answered
Jesus heard my feeble plea
Tho' I've been there ten thousand years
I will be there because of love
For justice called and mercy answered

Is this your song today? If so, then let’s give praise to God for that He laid our guilt, shame and judgment upon Christ, while offering us forgiveness, mercy and grace. Let’s not stop there though. Let’s extend mercy to those who have wronged us, in the same manner in which God has given mercy to us. As James said, “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (2:13). -DM

[1] Ben Marquis, “Officer Sees the 1 Item Man Is Trying to Shoplift, Decides Not to Arrest Him,” Conservative Tribune, 1 February 2015 <http://conservativetribune.com/officer-shoplift-no-arrest/>

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