Chauncey C. Riddle
We begin this hour with the principle of justice. Justice is the principle that righteousness demands regress for wrong. That is to say, if someone is injured, there must be a restoration or some other kind of satisfaction to restore them to the original condition. Justice is simply that every wronged must be righted.
Every time we sin, that is to say we break a commandment of God, somebody is hurt. Somebody’s blessings are shorted. And justice demands that the blessing be made up to that person. They are entitled to their heritage, their due. The heritage of every child of God is to be blessed and loved. Any child of God that is not blessed and loved, somebody is going to have to make up to it for. So, justice is a thing that we try to achieve. Being one of omission or commission it matters not. If one has not received his due then justice is not obtained, it has not been met.
But for God, righteousness must be maintained. Therefore God must be just. He himself is just, he showers love and goodness upon his children without exception. He does nothing except it be for the benefit of his children. He is absolutely just. He never sins, that is to say, he never shortens anyone’s blessings. You and I do sin and shorten other people’s blessings. And so then he insists that being just, that we must become just also. That we must do something to satisfy that shortening that we have made. So, if we come to him, then he will teach us of righteousness. So that in the future we can be just.
The word just means right, or doing what’s right, having one’s rights. A court of justice is where you go to get your rights. And if things go well, hopefully you’re better than before you started. So, real righteousness, or in other words, real justice is only of God. Because justice is a result of faith in Christ. It is a part of righteousness and righteousness only comes though Christ.
So, therefore a servant of Christ always pays his debts. Be they of time, money, covenant, or promise. He does not ask for release from debt but makes whatever sacrifices necessary to clear his promise or his obligation. Which also clears his own name, which also clears the name of his master, Jesus Christ.
If we’re covenant servants of Christ, we’re not just being unjust in our own right, we’re causing him to be unjust. Just as the father is responsible for the acts of his children, we cause the Savior to become unjust, in a sense. We cause his name to become ill spoken of, if we are unrighteous or unjust. So, if we love him, we will not wish to besmirch his name. We will wish to show, he is a God of justice and righteousness and love and truth. And do everything in our power, to make every sacrifice that is necessary to bring about justice. We will make whatever recompense or restitution is necessary if we have been unjust.
The terrestrial standard is, that if you have been unjust and wronged someone, you make it up to them by paying every last farthing for what we’ve owed them. The celestial standard, the gospel standard is, if you’ve wronged somebody and been unjust to them, you pay four-fold. You show your love for them and your sorrow for having wounded them, shortened them, by making up to them four times. I think that’s also a help not to be unjust in the future. So, to know exactly what is just is beyond human wisdom and the ability to satisfy past injustices is beyond human wisdom.
But in Christ all good things are possible. Thus, it is that the just live by faith. This was Martin Luther’s take off point in Romans, the just live by faith. And it’s true, the just do live by faith. Justice is of faith in Christ. There is a worldly justice, that worldly justice is the justice of man as judged by human reason, which is the counterfeit of divine justice. The counterfeit of Godly justice is the justice of man administered by human reason. This sometimes is an approximation of justice and sometimes is not justice at all. But until we’re willing to have God be our judge we must suffer counterfeit justice in our midst. Don’t mistake me, there are some people engaged in the justice business in our society and our civilization who our servants of Christ and they are prayerful and careful and faithful in their administration of justice. And their justice is real justice. But those who depend on their own human reason administer a counterfeit justice.
Mercy next. Mercy is the companion principle to justice in the gospel. Whereas the just man is always careful to pay his own debts, if he has been unjust. He stands ready to extend mercy to all. Mercy is to satisfy the debt of justice for someone else. Now, I can’t extend mercy to someone unless they have been unjust to me. So, someone has shortened me or has hurt me. Then they have been unjust to me. It’s then my privilege to forgive them. Which means to say, to pay the debt myself. To pay the debt of justice for someone else when they have incurred the debt to me, is mercy.
So, if someone runs into my car and dents it good. And they can’t pay for it. If they can pay for it, then I’m exacting justice, if I get them to. But if I say, I will pay for it, that is mercy. I’m paying the debt for them. Now, in the Father’s system the dent has to be fixed. Justice must be satisfied. But He’s content if I will fix it or the other person fixes it. He doesn’t mind, just that justice has to be satisfied. But he’s very pleased if I will satisfy it myself and not hold my neighbor to it.
Now if my neighbor is a servant of God, he will not except that mercy. He will insist on paying it himself, if he can. That is to say, servants of God are grateful to have mercy but they try to be just nevertheless. Whereas, people of the world always want mercy. That is to say, they want to be forgiven of their debts. But that’s not the way of a man of God, a man of God wants to pay his debts. No matter how long it takes him or whatever costs, if he has a honest just debt, he wants to pay it.
So, justice must to be satisfied but mercy needs to be there, if one is a servant of God and can extend mercy. Help us to forgive those who trespass against us, the Savior taught us to pray. But we, despairingly need the mercy of God. There’s no way we can satisfy the debt of justice for our sins. And therefore, if we’re ever to be clean, ever to be just, ever to see the Celestial Kingdom, we have to get forgiveness through the Savior’s satisfaction of justice.
He extended mercy to us through the atonement, through his Godship over the world, the universe. You and I, therefore, need that justice. But the only way we can qualify for that justice, is to forgive all men every trespass against us. Now that’s a tall order. That means we turn the other cheek every time. Some people say to me, you mean we’re supposed to lie down and be a door mat? And the answer is, yes. If you’re a servant of Christ you do not seek restitution. You may get it but it will because the other person wants to give it. You will not seek it, you will not demand it, you will not force it. Why? Because you have a God in heaven who can and will recompense to you a hundred fold. And he has promised you, if you lose anything for keeping his commandments that he will restore to you a hundred fold. Now you get your choice. Would you rather have the one fold restitution or would you have a hundred fold. If you’re smart I think you would take the hundred fold, which means you forgive all men their trespasses against you and depend on God for your blessings.
Now, if there were no God I guess this would be a different matter, wouldn’t it? But there is a God in heaven. I know that and I think you know that. And not to depend on him, not to trust him and suppose that we have to go out and feather our own nest by getting people to fix our fenders, so they won’t be dented, that’s not faith in Christ. Now there’s the one exception. In some situations the extending of Godly mercy by a just person is not automatic. For the Lord will council otherwise sometimes. In some situations he will instruct us to go to the person and request that they make the wrong right. Not force, not take them to a court of law. The scripture is very plain. To go to a court of law to exact justice of our neighbor is not God’s will. And my guess is that ninety-nine percent of the time we do that as Latter-day Saints, we’re sinning. I don’t know what the percentage is, don’t take that figure seriously.
But, he’s plain, he does not want us to settle our debts through the courts of law of the land. Now, he will have us go to the person and humbly request that they make it up if they have wronged us. If they’ve dented our fender, we go to them and request that they fix it. Now, if they say, fooey on you and won’t hear us. Then we go back and take a friend with us. And we ask them humbly again, won’t you please fix that fender? Now in the presence of ourselves and a witness he gets a chance to either accept it and fix it or refuse. If he refuses we have a witness and we and the witness go to the bishop of the church and lay the matter before the bishop.
Now, who would this be? This is only if this brother is a brother in Christ. If they are a covenant servant of Jesus Christ we take these three steps. Why? Not so we will get the fender fixed. We don’t care whether the fender gets fixed by them or not. What do we care about? We care about them as a brother and if they will not fix the fender they have abrogated their covenant with Christ. So the hope is, that we will be able to keep them as a brother in Christ. If they won’t fix it, even though we have talked to them and gone to them with a witness and the bishop has talked to them. What do we do then? The scripture says, that we no longer count them as a brother in Christ. They have broken their covenants, they have released themselves from his service. We have no obligation any more to treat them as a brother. The scripture says, we treat them as a heathen and a publican. In other words, we extend mercy to them and don’t ask them for justice anymore. We forgive them, we still don’t go to a court of law, and demand justice. We just forgive them. Because we didn’t care about the fender in the first place. What we cared about was their soul. So mercy must work hand in hand with justice, lest we find ourselves on the wrong side of the matter.
Godly mercy is to be willing to forgive all men all trespasses. And actually to forgive all those except where the Lord specifically commands otherwise. Thus, to be merciful as to be just must be an act of faith in Christ, to be Godly mercy. The counterfeit of Godly mercy is to forgive at our own pleasure. You might wish to read the passage in Matthew 18:15-17 where he instructs us in that matter.
Consecration is the principle of using all that we have and are in the service of our master. In him we live and move and have our being. To him we our indebted for all that we have. He gives us our body, our strengths, our mortality, our health, our wealth, our time, our power to beget children, everything we have he gives to us. To use all of these correctly, to be righteous, just and merciful in just the right way with all of these things is beyond our ability. Therefore, we who are servants of Christ enter into a covenant with him. To use all these things according to his instruction, as he gives us instruction in our own personal revelation. That revelation can come in various forms. It can come as we are listening to our bishop, as we are listening to our father, as we are listening to our Stake President, as we are listening to one of the Prophets, to President Benson. As we are praying, as we are reading the scriptures. It can come in any of those situations. But the thing that is common to all of those is that it comes by our own personal revelation.