Day 22: Justice or Mercy

“Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. John 8:5-6 

Have you ever been punished as an example? You broke a rule and the enforcer threw the book at you, not because you needed to learn a lesson yourself, but to deter others from doing the same thing. It feels humiliating, especially if you have already repented and tried to correct your mistake.

The Pharisees also lacked forgiveness because they had the wrong motives. They wanted justice, but not because they wanted to uphold God’s law; they were testing Jesus, using the circumstances to try to fool Him. They didn’t realize it, but they were trying to show that they were more holy than God Himself.           

The Pharisees’ focus only on the woman’s rule-breaking is the kind of attitude that leads to even more sins, like bitterness, grudge-holding, contempt, and revenge. Obeying God’s law is important, of course, but ultimately, all sin is against God. “Vengeance is Mine, and retribution,” God says in Deuteronomy 32:35. 

Jesus could see the hearts of the woman and the religious leaders. He knew the woman was already sorry for her sin; He knew that the Pharisees were motivated by judgment and cruelty, not by a desire to see the woman become holy.

Now, you can’t know if someone who sins against you is really repentant or not. You CAN choose to have the right attitude toward forgiveness yourself; unlike the Pharisees, remember that the goal of both discipline and forgiveness is reconciling sinners to God.           

Questions for discussion and reflection

  • How are we like the pharisees, always wanting justice?
  • Why is it hard to be forgiving and merciful towards others when they sin against us?
  • How does God deal with sinners who repent with justice and mercy?


Dear God, You combine justice and mercy in exactly the right way. Help us have the wisdom to do the same by sharing and showing Your love by forgiving others like You do.  In Jesus’ name, amen.