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Regardless of what you may think of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukamaran, their recent plight for clemency from execution in Bali caused many ordinary Australians to stop and really consider (probably for the first time) what we think is the place and aim of law enforcement, imprisonment and capital punishment. And more importantly, what is the place of mercy?

Did you realise that all wrong doing must ultimately be paid? If mercy is given, whilst payment is not made by the offender, it will be paid by someone else. e.g. If a window is broken, it must be replaced. If it is not replaced the owner of the window has to live with a broken window (who then suffers the effects of the broken window). The window has to be paid for by the person who broke it, the person who owns the window or some third party (e.g insurance company or a parent). However you look at it – someone pays the consequence for the offence – one way or another.

To be able to even offer mercy, three factors have to be present:

  1. an offence must be committed;
  2. there must be an acceptance that as a consequence of the committing of the offence there is a deserved penalty of some kind;
  3. a choice must be made by the person who rightfully has the power to enforce the punishment for the offender to be released from suffering the due and just punishment and someone else bearing the cost of the offence.

It is important to know the difference between mercy and forgiveness, as they can be confused with each other. Mercy is concerned with how an offended person or rightful authority acts towards a wrongdoer whilst forgiveness is concerned with how an offended person relates or feels about the wrongdoer. A person can truly forgive another and yet lovingly and even rightfully choose not to extend mercy (if, for example, it is better for the offender if they accept and own the responsibility and consequences for their wrong).

When we sin, whilst invariably people suffer, we actually sin against God first and foremost. (Psalm 51:4).   Because God loves us, wants to remain in relationship with us and knew that we could never pay the price of either the relational separation nor the just consequence of sin, He willingly chose to forgive and show us mercy by choosing to bear both the relational separation and the just cost of our sin on himself.

Jesus, the son of God became a man who lived and died in our place. The death of this perfect man/God was all that was sufficient and necessary for us to be forgiven and extended mercy. All we have to do is accept this paid price, by believing and trusting in Jesus instead of ourselves. If we do so, we are no longer “condemned prisoners” serving a deserved eternal sentence but free people. (Isaiah 42:7; Luke 4:18 )

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law … could not do. By sending his own Son … he condemned sin … in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us. (Romans 8:1-4)

Now that’s mercy!

Next time you have been wronged, we encourage you to consider the questions of both forgiveness and mercy – remembering that God freely extended both to us.

We encourage you to be a forgiving person, and wherever it seems most wise and loving for the person who has done wrong, to be a person of mercy too.