God is no magistrate, but if he were, it would be a position to which his fatherhood alone gave him the right. The justice of God is this, that he gives every man, woman, child, and beast, everything that has being, fair play; he renders to every man according to his work; and therein lies his perfect mercy; for nothing else could be merciful to the man, and nothing but mercy could be fair to him. Who would say a man was a just man because he insisted on prosecuting every offender? A scoundrel might do that. Punishment of the guilty may be involved in justice, but it does not constitute the justice of God one atom more than it would constitute the justice of a man.
And yet many claim that God does this or that which is not fair. But to say on the authority of the Bible that God does a thing no honorable man would do, is to lie against God. To uphold a lie for God’s sake is to be against God, not for him. God is the truth, and truth alone is on his side. While his child could not see the rightness of a thing, he would infinitely rather, even if the thing were right, have him say, God could not do that thing, than have him believe that he did it. If the man were sure God did it, the thing he ought to say would be, “Then there must be something about it I do not know which if I did know, I should see the thing quite differently.”
A Just Father
by Stephen Carney
“The justice of God is this, that he gives every man, woman, child, and beast, everything that has being, fair play; he renders to every man according to his work; and therein lies his perfect mercy; for nothing else could be merciful to the man, and nothing but mercy could be fair to him.” These lines remind me of the First Conversation in the little book The Practice of the Presence of God. “Brother Lawrence had formerly been a servant to the treasurer of the monastery and had been very clumsy. He believed that in order to be saved, he would have to be punished for this clumsiness. Thus he sacrificed all the pleasures in his life to God. However, rather than punishing him, God gave him nothing but wholehearted satisfaction.” Far from punishing us, God would rather grant us his divine presence. He will correct us to bring us to himself, but he does not wish to banish us. Man may want to be banished from the sight of God, but God only disciplines us to bring us to a place of repentance, so that our hearts will yearn to come home to him.
The correction of God is about correcting what went wrong in us. Atonement, as MacDonald puts it, is “At-One-Ment” with God. His goal is to make us at one with himself that we might worship him and enjoy his eternal love. It is what was lost in the beginning and what must be restored. Our problem often lies in the fact that we little know what we are missing by not being at one with him. We believe if we could have the life we wanted, we would be happy enough. But I know of a number of people with enough money to buy that life, and I also know just how many of them are just as miserable, or more so, as those who have little. But even if a person is content enough, he or she may still be missing out on the extraordinary experience of this inner life with God. Jesus came promising a life more abundant, and the discovery of that life comes from being in his continual presence.
I fear that most people are afraid of close union with God, or at least fear God's eye upon them. They believe that he is out for their ruin, or, if they are finally discovered for the beings that they are, they will be punished beyond what they can bear. John, writing in his first letter, states in chapter four, “Herein is our love made perfect; that we may have boldness in the day of judgement. For as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, for fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love because He first loved us.”
How then do we escape this fearfulness of believing God is out to get us, so to speak? By coming close to him. The word perfect here means completeness, not flawlessness. This is what we are often misunderstanding about God. We believe he demands flawlessness and what he wants is not flawlessness, but fullness. Only the fullness of him indwelling us can bring us to a complete (perfect) experience of him and his love. John says, We may have boldness in the day of judgement, because as HE IS, so are we. We achieve at-one-ment with him, and know his heart, and so know that we have nothing to dread or fear. There is nothing to fear from his gaze, his correction, or his judgement, as it is all born in the love that the Father has to bring his lost children home to bless them, fill them, and complete them in himself. That's the heart of a father, a just father, a true Father.