This morning I read the last section of Matthew 23. In this passage, Jesus condemns the religious leaders for failing to observe the essential teachings of the law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness. This is an obvious reference to Micah 6:8, a passage with which these learned religious figures would have been familiar. The concepts of justice and mercy are set against the fate of Jesus, who will soon be condemned to the ultimate injustice of crucifixion by the very people about whom he is speaking . Jesus lived a life filled with mercy, healing the sick without concern for whether healing was merited and associating with those these religious leaders believed to be "sinners." By contrast, the quality of mercy was missing from the thinking of the religious leaders, who were more concerned with finding evidence of breaking the ritual demands of the law.
As I thought about these three qualities and the observance of 9/11 yesterday, I was reminded of Jesus' teaching in the gospels about love for one's enemies, such as the passage in Luke 6. It seems to me that much of our discourse has been about hate and punishment, rather than about justice tempered by mercy. The injustice of lumping whole groups of people into stereotypical categories based on the actions of a few seems to be rampant in our country now. Laws that presume someone to be an "illegal" based on appearances and that require the one so classified to present evidence to the contrary seem to run counter to what Jesus taught. The presumption that someone is a "radical" based on that person's ethnicity or religion is another example of our ignoring what Jesus taught, especially when such injustice is practiced by many who talk about returning the US to being a "Christian nation."
Justice, mercy, and faithfulness to the ideals of Jesus are the essential traits of a follower of Jesus. My prayer is that God will work in my heart and mind to transform me into one who is consistently just, merciful, and faithful to these core ideals. I would be interested to know what others think the meanings of these three words are in the context of Jesus' teachings.