This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. (1 John 1:5-10, NIV)
There are at least two times in my life when I would have rather preferred to have mercy than justice. Both of them involve just me, in a vehicle, and another vehicle with flashing lights. One happened rather late in the evening just after I missed a the turn I wanted and took another one to get me where I was headed. The other happened in the middle of the day, along a well-traveled city street. I eventually paid for the first one (it was an out of state ticket) but I chose to try a different tactic with the local one.
I reviewed a map of my town and discovered, much to my amusement, that the street on which I fell "victim" to the speed trap had the city limit line running right down the middle of it. Since the entire event happened on the East side of that line, it was not technically within the city limit of the officers who clocked me and pulled me over. In fact, they were standing in the next city for the whole thing. I could smell my own version of justice as I wrote in my response (after all, that was an available option and only a fool would actually show up in court, right?)
The very thorough magistrate who responded to my inquiry was kind enough to enclose a copy of the ordinance stating that any officer in any jurisdiction was allowed to patrol not only his or her own area, but all roads immediately bordering said jurisdiction. Enclosed was a reaffirmation of my fine. Oh, and in taking the route I took to seek resolution, I had waived my right to go to court anyway. Justice had been served, and I was out the amount of the fine.
From the beginning, God set up His standard of obedience. Because He is holy beyond what we seem to be able to grasp as holy, the standard was perfection. If you need further evidence, go read all of Leviticus and Deuteronomy very carefully. Plus, God actually tells us we need to be holy in the same way He is holy plenty of other times. And, as I mentioned in my last entry, He knew even then that we couldn't possibly attain the standard.
So, when "the fullness of time had come" God sent Jesus to perfectly fulfill once and for all the legal requirement He had established in the first place. And in doing so, He makes a stunning provision for us. Even as we in ourselves are quite unholy, He has accounted to our record the perfect holiness of Christ. His own standard of justice demanded to be served, and God chose to serve it for all of us by Himself.
Now, here's the great part for you and me. We still fall short and sin on a regular basis. That sin, were it left alone, is an automatic disqualification based on the standard. Yet again God says, all we need to do is come back to Him and find that He has already meted out justice and forgiven us. That's exactly what the passage in 1 John says. God remains faithful to Himself and, in His own provision of justice, has granted forgiveness for our sins. He then continues the work by purifying us, making us fit to fellowship with Him both now and forever.
My life is all too often a mess. I try to take control of things; try on my own to live up to the standard. In doing so, there are times I actually live out the last verse in this passage - acting as if I either don't sin or that I can handle it all on my own. But thank God He is faithful to his own justice, and He has granted forgiveness because of Who He is. Justice has been served on me, but my cost is zero. I am 100% legally cleared. This makes my feet want to fly on the Crooked Path ... and run even faster to Him.
- What is your personal view of God's justice and forgiveness? How does it match up with the passage in 1 John?
- Do you find yourself at times trying to work out your own version of justice? How do you think God views this?
- Are you somehow afraid that God actually won't forgive you? Does it sound foreign to you that He already has done that and is waiting (with open arms) to shower His forgiveness on you? Wouldn't you feel free to follow Him more closely if you could take that to heart?
NIV - Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.