Anyone who has read anything else I’ve written on this site knows I collect quotes from every book I read, every movie I watch, every podcast that means something special to me, and more. The book I’m into most recently (besides the Book of Mormon) is Believing Christ by Stephen E. Robinson.
There is a part in that book that makes me especially thankful that God loves us so much that He doesn’t treat us fairly. The author begins it like this:
“Since Christ and I are one in the gospel covenant, and since in a covenant partnership it doesn’t matter which partnership does what,” [think of this sort of like being a cosigner on a car purchase] “Christ can answer the demands of justice for me, and I can then receive the benefits of mercy from him. This is an arrangement that satisfies both justice and mercy. Yet some people are so addicted to the law of justice that they have difficulty accommodating the law of mercy and grace” (p. 103-104).
He goes on to illustrate that if life were actually completely fair, there would be no cosigner (my wording, not his) on the rewards of eternal life, and we would always get exactly what we deserve. Earlier in the book, he clarifies that if justice was implemented by God in full force, repentance wouldn’t exist and neither would forgiveness of sins or anything else good that comes from Christ.
“No, sometimes the gospel isn’t fair, but that is actually part of the good news. It isn’t fair—it’s merciful, and thank it is so, for no human being can stand acquitted before the demands of absolute justice. From the perspective of fallen, imperfect mortals like ourselves, being judged by justice alone is our worst nightmare.”
So wait a minute—if God is both perfectly just and perfectly merciful, how are justice and mercy both served? Alma 34:16 answers that question by explaining that because of Christ’s Atonement, “mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles [us] in the arms of safety.” And who is the embodiment of mercy? The Lord Jesus Christ. The partnership between Jesus and Heavenly Father is a divine partnership between justice and mercy. The Father must be enact justice to the fullest extent. Just look at the following scriptures:
From these verses, it is pretty clear that the Father cannot budge from measuring out justice completely and entirely upon us or He would cease to be God.
That’s where Jesus comes into the picture. He is the enactor of mercy. Something that really makes me even more appreciative of that fact is the following quote from Believing Christ:
“Now here is an odd thing about the nature of mercy: by definition, mercy can only be mercy if we don’t deserve it. For if we deserve something, then it becomes a matter of justice that we receive it. So it ceases to be a matter of mercy. Thus, in this sense at least, to give or to receive mercy is always somewhat unfair. But one of the great beauties of the gospel, some of the best news of all, is that Jesus Christ does not mind this unfairness. He is willing to suffer unfairly and compensate justice himself out of his own person in order to extend mercy to weaker beings like us” (p 109, emphasis added).
That phrase “if we deserve something, then it becomes a matter of justice that we receive it” explains perfectly how Christ’s Atonement satisfies justice. The fact the Christ suffered unfairly by choice means that in order for justice to actually be served, He must be compensated for what He did. He does deserve us returning to the Father’s and His presence if we repent and choose to live so that we can receive all the blessings that flow from Him because of His Atonement. Him receiving us back on those conditions serves justice because He deserves it. He utterly refuses to take anything else as compensation. If He doesn’t get what He asks for, justice is, in principle, left naked and exposed as unfairly expecting something that isn’t deserved.
There’s a reason why the Book of Mormon teaches us that “in Christ there should come every good thing.” Justice demands that because we have all sinned at least once (because even once is too much for justice), we never return to the presence of God, but the reason mercy even qualifies as a good thing in the first place is because Christ is good! And and since He is the one offering it, life doesn’t need to be fair — it only needs to be the perfect balance of justice and mercy, which it is. That person who hurt you or offended you to whom your bishop was more merciful than you thought he should be? What if it was you in their place? Would you want the bishop to actually be fair to you? To deal out justice in full measure? I doubt it. Christ knows how to keep that balance better than we do and is more than capable of teaching that balance to His ordained judges in Israel.
I can’t begin to describe how thankful I am that life isn’t fair, but that Christ is. I love Him and pray that more people qualify to become His reward in the eternities as time goes by — because in the end, that’s all I want to be: His reward. I want to be someone about whom He can say to justice, “If you don’t give me him back and allow me to exalt Him, I will be robbed of my reward and all of creation with go back into outer darkness and the entire plan will be frustrated!”
If I live so that I can receive that blessing because He deserves to give it to me and I don’t receive it, the entire plan is frustrated? Now that sounds awesome! Thankfully His plan is never frustrated. What a wonderful and foolproof safety net! Thank the Lord life is never fair.
Paul served a mission in the then Canada Toronto West Mission and recently moved to Orem, Utah, after living for ten years with his late wife, Lorraine, in Hamilton Ontario before her passing in 2019. He loves missionary work, piano, blogging (you can find his personal blog here!), deep spiritual conversations with friends, and hosting his podcast, Stepping Into Freedom. He can solve a 5x5x5 Rubik's cube, and puts a lot of time into gospel scholarship.