One of the main reasons why I chose to study law was because I wanted to learn about the concept of justice since it is something that God cares strongly about. As I’ve progressed through law school over the last six years, I have become increasingly convicted that as followers of Jesus, we are called to stand up for the oppressed, weak and needy. As a law student it is exciting to be learning the skills to be able to advocate on behalf of and assist those who are in need of protection by the law.
Recently I had the privilege of volunteering for International Justice Mission, a human rights organization that seeks to rescue victims of sexual exploitation, bonded labour, illegal property seizure and other forms of violent oppression. My time there opened my eyes to the horrors of injustice but also the hope that awaits the victim when the legal system can be activated to bring about their freedom. Advocating on the side of the victim makes it very easy for us to feel strongly that the perpetrators really deserve the harshest punishment possible to pay for the hurt and suffering they have caused. In contrast however I have also spent time learning about organizations such as Reprieve which advocates on behalf of defendants who are facing the death penalty and campaigns for abolishing the death penalty because of its finality as a punishment which leaves no room for human error.
I am reminded of this verse from the Bible – “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) God clearly requires us to seek justice and to show mercy which means we are to not only stand up for the oppressed but also extend mercy to the oppressor. For most of society and certainly in the Western legal system, there is plenty of seeking justice for victims, at best a fair trial for perpetrators but extending mercy to perpetrators is rarely heard of. This makes me appreciate how God freely extended His mercy to me and all of us so much more. For Him to be our judge and require the penalty for our sin to be paid by death for justice to be done but then to send His Son Jesus to die on our behalf is certainly mercy displayed far beyond our comprehension. Jesus challenges us as His followers to “be merciful just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). As a law student it is certainly easy to focus on seeking justice without remembering to show mercy but we all need to continue to ask God to show us how to live as He would, being both a completely just and completely merciful God.
Law Graduate, University of Melbourne