February 10, 2021


February 10, 2021


Matthew 19:1-12

Psalm 119:9-16


A few years ago, I offered to help a friend who was experiencing some legal troubles. This offer took me all the way to a courtroom in the county courthouse, where I sat in the back row as support while my friend waited for his turn in front of a judge.

Until then, my only experience of a real courtroom had been through TV where hard-charging lawyers and stone-faced judges would question witnesses in the relentless pursuit of the truth. It was no wonder, then, that even sitting on the back row of this courtroom (where I was not even the one facing legal issues!) made me a little nervous and on edge.

But what I witnessed that day in the courtroom really surprised me. While we waited, case after case was brought before the judge. In each case, the judge on the bench that day dealt with the defendants fairly and with compassion. Instead of berating them with questions over their bad behaviors, his first instinct seemed to always be to try and find the help that those people needed. Yes, in some cases the judge had to hand down a strict punishment because the law demanded it as consequence for action, and yet, even in those cases the judge showed compassion and a heartfelt desire that the guilty would change their hearts and lives.

I don’t know if that judge is a Christian or not, but my guess would be that he is. When the Pharisees question Jesus in today’s scripture passage, they do so because they want to discern something about God’s justice. And God certainly is a God of justice. But the picture of God that Jesus paints is not just a God of law, but also a God of love, in which the fulfillment of the law isn’t a punishment handed down, but a hand held out in grace.

The question of God’s justice and God’s grace is a paradox that we must all hold in tension as Christ followers, but what we can never forget is that the compassion and mercy of Christ must always be our guide.


  • What are my own conceptions of justice and grace? Do I prefer one over the other?
  • Is there a situation in my life, right now, in which I need to develop compassion and mercy?


  • If someone does something wrong to you, what should our first response be? What does our faith teach us?


Almighty God, we praise you as a God of ultimate justice and also a God of ultimate grace. Your love is so freely given that we admit it is sometimes even hard to accept for ourselves. Let us fully accept and fully embrace your grace today so that we might be as full of love for others as you are full of love for us. Amen.