Upholding what is right comes at a cost.
There’s a story about a judge whose own son was brought before her for a crime he had committed. The judge felt a deep grief that her son would violate the laws upon which she based her entire life. Tears welled in her eyes and she listened painfully as the evidence against her son was presented. The courtroom sat in silence wondering how the judge would rule. Would she just give him a reprimand in an act of mercy? Would she give him the minimum penalty for the offense? Much to their surprise, she handed down the maximum fine, upholding the law to its fullest degree. The son was in shock, for he knew that he couldn’t pay the fine and was anguished at the thought of imprisonment. He looked up at her in disbelief.
But then something happened that nobody expected. She stepped down from the bench, took off her judge’s robe, told her son how much she loved him and then paid, out of her own pocket, the fine she had just handed down. Not everyone understood what she had done. As a judge, she showed her commitment to honor the law to its fullest, but she then stepped down from that seat of honor and showed her love for her child. Her son never understood the depth of his mother’s commitment to the law until that moment, and, until that moment, he never knew the depth of his mother’s love for him. He felt deep sorrow for the pain he had caused her and for those he had hurt by his act of crime. With his head bowed, and his tears flowing freely, he asked for her forgiveness, which she willingly and freely gave to him.
This story is actually an allegory for God’s relationship to us. Our crimes are our willful departure from the laws given us by God for the way we are to live. When we break those laws, God is grieved and pained. Inevitably there are natural consequences of our failings that hurt others, sometimes affecting lives for generations to come. This is why God’s laws say that the penalty for sin is death. His holy nature demands that He not just let us off the hook or go easy on us. So what did He do? He came down from heaven to us in Jesus Christ to help us to understand His laws, to show us the depth of His love for us and to pay the price of our sin with His own life. This never made sense to me until I understood how I fell short of God’s standards for life and how deeply that had hurt those who depended on me the most. But once I knew the love and forgiveness of God, I turned away in disgust from my deepest sins and understood, in a way I never had before, how to love and forgive others.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
1 John 4:9-10
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.