Mercy and Justice

This is a parable that really helped me understand God’s use of justice and mercy in my ongoing salvation. The Kingdom of God is like a smoothie store. . . .

I love smoothies. I’d like to drink a smoothie everyday. I have a favorite smoothie shop that’s within walking distance of work that I frequent often. The same guy is working there every day, his name is Josh and we’ve gotten to know one another quite well. The problem is, in the past I have frequently forgotten my wallet. When this happened I would beg and plead with Josh to give me a free smoothie. He sometimes gave me a free smoothie, he would justify it by saying “Ah, you’ve bought so many smoothies you probably deserve a free one.” Well this arrangement worked out great until one week I forgot my wallet everyday. On Monday he gave in, no problem. Tuesday he was hesitant. Wednesday took a lot of begging on my part (it got embarrassing). On Thursday he finally said “ENOUGH! I can’t keep giving you free smoothies. If I keep giving you free smoothies I’m going to lose my job.” He was right of course and I left without my smoothie. Amazingly on Friday I forgot my wallet again and didn’t even bother visiting Josh.

Well, my wife heard about all of this and devised a plan. On her own time she visited Josh at the Smoothie store. She and Josh had a good laugh about what a dope I am. Then she asked Josh if they sold gift cards. Sure enough, they did. So she paid for a $100 gift card and asked Josh to keep it. She told him, “Next time Tim forgets his wallet, I want you to just charge this gift card for his smoothie. Don’t tell him about it and let me know when it’s almost empty and I’ll recharge the card.”

So sure enough, the next time I forgot my wallet, I sheepishly asked Josh if I could have a free smoothie and he said “No problem, would you like a sandwich too!”

Before my wife bought the gift card I was relying on Josh’s mercy for a smoothie. Eventually I exhausted his mercy, I had to pay. But after he had the gift card, my smoothies had been paid for. Justice required Josh to give me a smoothie any time I asked for one.

Christianity teaches that forgiveness is offered by God in the same way. The first time we ask for forgiveness from God, in mercy he gives us his Son and forgives our debt. But after we accept this gift, when we again ask for forgiveness (because we will fail again), justice demands that we receive it because the price has been paid, now and forever more.

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4 thoughts on “Mercy and Justice

  1. Like any analogy, I think (or hope) this one breaks down. And I think it’s in that “break down” that Jared finds his disagreement.

    I would probably fully accept what you say in your last paragraph—although I’m not so clear on the need for a distinction between first sin/mercy and later sin/justice; either way, the economics work out to God forgiving.

    Jared makes it sound rash, but yes I think that Jesus, on our behalf, demands forgiveness from the Father. Jesus stands between us and the Father in judgment, so that the Father must only see the Son and his righteousness, etc.

  2. Thinking out loud here:

    I’m thinking that the value of the analogy depends at least in part on what it means to “ask for forgiveness.” Is it even possible for someone who intentionally continues a life of sin to “ask for forgiveness” in anything but word only, or to receive it if offered?

    To extend the analogy a bit further, perhaps to intentionally live a life of sin is like walking into the store, asking for a smoothie, and then walking out while the employee (who is fulfilling his or her obligation) is preparing it. The person never receives the smoothie, even though it has been bought, paid for and delivered to the counter.

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