Most of us are familiar with the concept of “Lady Justice” – we may have seen statues and paintings of her holding a sword in one hand and a balance scale in the other. The sword, of course, represents punishment and justice itself, and the balance scale symbolizes the idea of fairness in the justice dispensed. And if we look closely at these representations of the figure of Justice, we see she is usually wearing a blindfold – symbolic of total impartiality in justice.
The Bible stresses the same concepts of justice and fairness – or justice and mercy as it calls them – as we see in Micah’s words “to act justly and to love mercy” as well as the words of Zechariah “…Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another” (Zechariah 7:9), and the words of Christ “…you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness….” (Matthew 23:23).
But we must be careful when it comes to the blindfold. God’s word encourages us to be involved in the dispensation of justice and mercy – to interact with the individuals to whom these principles must be applied in our roles as parents, supervisors, or whatever. But biblically, we cannot be impartial. We cannot temper justice with mercy if we don’t look at the circumstances involved, and in the same way, we cannot temper mercy with judgment if we do not look at the attitudes involved.
From a biblical perspective we do need to see clearly what is involved in each instance where we may be in a position to dispense justice or punishment, just as we must where we might need to grant mercy or forgiveness. Certainly we must not judge by appearances, as Christ confirmed: “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge the righteous judgment” (John 7:24).
But we must not judge blindly – we must learn to look below the surface and judge matters of justice and mercy without the blindfold of social pressure that sometimes may lean unduly toward mercy, or conversely the blindfold of our human nature that may lean unduly toward justice. Either of those blindfolds can obscure what we need to see.
The word of God encourages us to see situations needing justice or mercy clearly, but through the lens of its teachings rather than through those of social pressure or human nature. We may understand this and know the importance of applying both justice and mercy, but how well do we know the scriptures that apply to doing just that? It’s a simple enough study (search “justice” and “mercy” in a concordance or on a Bible website with search capabilities such as BibleGateway.com) and one we should all do at some point: preferably before situations arise needing the application of justice or mercy rather than after they do.
Ultimately, knowing the Scriptures and being guided by them is the only way we can properly hold the sword and the scale in our everyday lives as Christians. It’s the only way we can express love through a right balance of justice and mercy, and the only way to do it without being blindfolded.