My husband recently told me a story he had seen on Facebook. I was very touched by this reportedly true incident and decided to share it with you.
In an Indonesian courtroom a grandmother faced a judge. She admitted her guilt but pleaded that she stole some cassava (tapioca) from a plantation because her ill son and grandson were hungry. The judge looked at the plantation owner, who had filed the claim, but he insisted that the case should be tried.
The judge then looked at the old woman and said,
“I cannot change the law. Consequently I sentence you to a fine of one million Rupias (US $100) or, in case you cannot pay it, to 2 1/2 years in prison.”
The grandmother, with great sorrow, wept as she bowed. Then the judge, Marzuki, did something totally unexpected. He removed his cap, opened his pocket, took out his wallet, and put 1 million rupiah into his hat. He addressed the people in the court,
“I, on behalf of the court, herewith fine each one attending this hearing 50,000 Rupiah (US $5.50) for settling in this city and allowing someone living here to starve so that she is forced to steal to feed her children and grandchildren.”
Three-and-a-half million Rupia (US $350) were collected. The fine of one million was paid and the grandmother went home with the balance, including the fine from the plantation owner.[i]
Oh, that men and women the world over had this delicate balance of justice, mercy, and forgiveness! It is so easy to stand in judgment, quoting the law, imposing our own standards and expectations, and criticizing others whose opinions are even slightly dissimilar.
I immediately thought of the only One who always strikes that perfect equilibrium when dealing with the waywardness of those He has created.
The Bible speaks of God as the “righteous Judge” (II Timothy 4:8). Indeed, this is the only image of God that many people see…an impersonal and condemning God of wrath whose laws and commands are meant to instill fear and guilt in the hearts of mankind. How sad that they have not experienced the equally fundamental part of God’s nature which is described in Micah 7:18,
“Who is a God like you who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of His inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.” [ii]
God actually delights to show us His mercy! He is full of compassion. (Psalm 116:5) He is faithful and fair. (I John 1:9, NIRV) Similar to the judge in our story God is just and must punish our sin. The penalty is separation from Him forever. If the story ended there, it would be a hopeless existence for us. But the good news is the story continues!
God’s love for us balances the scales between His justice and mercy. What we deserve on one side is leveled out on the other because of the debt God’s Son paid for us on the cross. A song we used to sing in children’s ministries comes to mind:
He paid a debt He did not owe;
I owed a debt I could not pay;
I needed someone to wash my sins away.
And now I sing a brand new song,
Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay.[iii]
All God requires is that we come humbly before Him, admitting our sin and need for forgiveness, acknowledging that Christ has paid our debt in full.
Isaiah 55:6-7 says, “Seek the Lord while you can find Him. Call on Him now while He is near. Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the Lord that He may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for He will forgive generously.” (NLT)
And then, God turns to we who believe in Him and says, “…The Lord has told you what is good and this is what He requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8, NLT) He gave us the example to follow as we interact with others. May I never forget what He saved me from! That knowledge must keep me humble and aware of how quickly I can assume the authority that is solely owned by our holy God.
God, help me to be compassionate, just as You are compassionate.[iv]
Until next time,
[i] https://plus.google.com/+YesIKnowThat/posts/JNdbkePumaL; http://www.themuslimtimes.org/2012/03/countries/indonesia/indonesian-judge-sentences-grandmother-to-2-12-years-in-jail-for-stealing-casava-and
[ii] All Scripture is from the NIV unless otherwise noted
[iv] Luke 6:36, NLT