Justice or mercy? Which do you choose for Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, two of the Hollywood celebrities accused in the college admission scandal? On the surface, it’s easy to make judgements as so many have. Just look at any newsfeed and you’ll find a full course of criticism, judgement, and opinions.
To be honest, it’s easy to agree with much of what folks are saying. If guilty, the parents have not only broken the law but have set a pathetic example for their kids. Having seen how some of the accused parent’s kids have responded in interviews, it’s possible arrogance and an entitlement mentality pervaded their homes. Humility and remorse aren’t to be seen in their repertoire.
Nonetheless, should those accused receive justice or mercy? “Justice” has become a recent catchphrase. It’s not uncommon to regularly hear that word in news stories. Everybody wants justice. They may want social justice or legal justice. It may be criminal justice for Donald Trump, or Hillary Clinton, maybe the drunk driver, or the child molester. Regardless, mankind generally wants someone to pay. Hang ‘em; hang ‘em high!
I found the admission scandal grievous but, at the same time, nothing surprises me anymore. When we live in a society with few or no moral absolutes, we can only expect to hear about immorality. When everyone does what is right in their own eyes as opposed to following a higher standard of moral authority, such scandals will occur, again and again.
How should we respond? It seems that often depends upon whether the people accused are a part of our herd. For instance, if you’re of the conservative persuasion, you may think any charges brought against a conservative by liberals is bogus because liberals are corrupt. On the other hand, if you’re a liberal and allegations are made against your likeable ones, then you likely think they’re bogus for the same reason. All to often, we don’t take the time to let the facts play out before judgements are made.
In the case of the admissions scandal, news stories indicate there’s fire behind the smoke. The investigation has been ongoing for eight years. Evidence will be forthcoming; I only hope justice (there’s that word again) is served. I often pray, Lord, expose the truth. I pray that because “truth” in today’s world is often proclaimed in the wrappings of a lie. Too much harm can come from the lies for me to immediately accept much of any statement as fact. I want to see the system work so that those facing charges are fairly treated. That is what I want for myself. I owe the same to others.
But you say, “They’re rich elites, they’re guilty!” And, you may be right. If so, they deserve to experience the same justice from our system as you or I. They shouldn’t experience any favor or disfavor as a result of their economic scale. And, neither should we if we’re found to be in a similar situation.
Some may say, “No quarter, stick it to them.” Of course, you would be assuming they’re guilty without that having been proven. We live in a day where everyone’s guilty until proven innocent. If you’re the one facing that firing squad, that’s a tough position in which to find yourself. I suspect there are a multitude of regrets among those in the admissions scandal. That doesn’t change their innocence or guilt, but it does make them human.
Let’s backtrack a minute. Should those accused receive justice or mercy? Human nature is such that we want others to receive justice while we receive mercy. It’s always easier to point our scrawny finger at someone else before we point it at our self. “Give them justice; they deserve it” is heard more often than “Have mercy on them.”
Finger pointing began in the Garden of Eden when Adam blamed Eve who then blamed the serpent for eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It’s never our fault; therefore, we don’t deserve justice in our own mind, we deserve only mercy.
I believe most people deserve both justice and mercy; however, I personally want mercy before justice. Am I any different than Lori or Felicity? Really, am I? Are you? If it were possible for all our thoughts, motives, and actions to be videotaped and presented before the world, would we be any different? If accusations against them are true, they should be held accountable. But, in all reality, isn’t what they’ve done just more public than what we’ve done. Isn’t that the only difference between them and us?
Because they’re wealthy and beautiful, it’s salacious news so their faces are spread all over the country. Likely, my face won’t ever make headlines because I’m neither beautiful nor newsworthy. Because they are, they face not only the judgement of a court system but of an entire nation.
Judgement is a two-edged sword. It feels noble to mount the pedestal of righteousness and point to other’s shortcomings but, it comes with a price. We are told from Scripture if we judge, we will be judged. In the same way we judge others, we will be judged. The measure we judge will be measured back to us. (Matthew 7:1-5) We are hypocrites if we judge others without first addressing our own sin.
You might say, “But what they did was horrible. It’s just another instance of ‘white privilege’ on steroids.” That may be, or it could simply be they sinned and will face the consequences. If the accusations are correct, their sins may include lying, cheating, fraud, covetousness, and stealing, among others. Now tell me you haven’t done those things, too. Haven’t we all? Assuming we have (and we have), we’re as guilty as them, our sin just hasn’t been as publicly exposed.
The fact remains, we will all one day face a judge just as they will. They may face two – a criminal court judge and the Judge of the universe, where we face only one – the Judge of the universe, but we will all face the latter. Neither wealth, nor social status, nor political persuasion will exempt anyone from His judgements. Our day is coming just as is Lori’s and Felicity’s. For that reason, I want mercy for others as I want it for myself.
On Judgement Day, God will judge every person. Though our sins may not be as publicly exposed as that of those in the scandal, God knows them, nonetheless. No sin escapes his notice. He knows about the income that wasn’t disclosed to the IRS to avoid tax. He knows about the time stolen from employers when taking a sick day without being sick. He knows about those who trash-talk their spouse or physically abuse them. He knows about those that curse His name with every other breath.
He knows about the adultery of heart whether it’s ever been acted on physically. He knows about the lying, cheating, covetousness, thievery, idolatry, hatred, and drunkenness. He knows everything about you and me. “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13)
For these reasons, we should all seek both justice and mercy. We need both every day. We need justice so that lawbreakers are held accountable. Yet, we all need mercy when we break the law; because we break God’s law daily. What we face on this side of eternity is insignificant to what we will face on the other. God is a holy, just God who will judge every thought, motive, and deed. He will judge our hearts and we will need His mercy.
Next time you read about someone in the news, keep in mind, it could be you on the front page. God could just as easily expose our sin just as He has theirs. For that reason, and because I’ve received mercy from God through Jesus Christ for my sins, I pray that others receive His mercy as well.
Many won’t ever receive mercy from other people, but they can receive it from Jesus if they repent and put their faith in His righteousness. He died, was buried, and was resurrected so mercy could be available to us. Take a moment and consider His sacrifice. He demonstrated His love when He went to the cross not for good people but for sinners. He went to the cross for Lori, Felicity, me, and you. Mercy is simply not getting what we deserve. We deserve His wrath and hell but He offers forgiveness and eternal life instead.
What are you going to do with that? Do you want justice or mercy on Judgement Day? I suggest we extend to others what we want for ourselves. Mercy is what I need. If all I receive from God is His justice, hell is my eternal destination as it is yours. His mercy is what we need if we are honest with ourselves. Justice is good in the correct context, but His mercy is unfathomable.
Final Thought: Everything I write originates from my relationship with a righteous, loving, and holy God. What I am today is credited to His transformational work in my life. I give Him glory for all that is good and take full responsibility for all else. For a better understanding of why I needed God to save me from myself (my sin), take a look at my faith journey. Just as He invited me to come to Him, He invites you as well. Go to The Biggest Question – Why to find the answer to life’s biggest question before each of us.