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December 15, 2008

Justice without mercy...

Ijm "And earthly power doth then show likest God's/When mercy seasons justice." -- William Shakespeare

The other night, I had the privilege of attending my very first International Justice Mission (IJM) benefit dinner, where I heard the wrenching story of Maite, a beautiful Guatemalan teenager.

When IJM first discovered Maite, the scars on her her arms bore witness to the frequent beatings she received as a slave to a woman--supposedly a "family friend"--and the woman's teenage son. After Maite's rescue, they discovered that her physical torture had also included repeated rape by the son.

IJM's team of lawyers secured Maite's freedom and sent her to live in a Christian aftercare house, where she is learning to live and to thrive. In a photograph (similar to the photograph of some other girls above), Maite's eyes were blurred out to protect her privacy, but there is nothing private about her radiant smile.

But what about the woman and her son? Thanks to IJM, one has been arrested and a warrant is out for the other.

Mission almost accomplished. Justice served. IJM has successfully fought for freedom once again.

But the young man's black and white mug shot makes me look again. There is no smile here, just emptiness. Likely because of his actions, a young woman has years of emotional healing ahead of her. Dare I ask: what has it done to him?

I have a prayer for this young man, for this instrument of evil. I have a prayer that he will go to prison and face the law's heavy hand. I have a prayer that he will experience misery. I have a prayer that he will come to the end of himself, and cry out for help.

I have a prayer that a person of supernatural compassion will visit him with words of justice, truth, and mercy. I have a prayer that he will discover the One who died to redeem even him. Even him.

I have a prayer that he will beg forgiveness from a girl he has wounded so deeply. I have a prayer that he will find healing for his own soul. I have a prayer that one day even he will learn to smile. Even he.

While IJM prays for girls like Maite to learn to smile once again, we at Prison Fellowship pray an equally daring (and perhaps more controversial) prayer that young men like this--in prisons across the world from Guatemala to Kenya to the United States--will learn to smile again too. Maybe for the first time.

That's why we need both IJM and Prison Fellowship. Mercy without justice is unthinkable. But justice without mercy is unbearable.

(Image © IJM)

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I love that speech from Merchant of Venice, and I have enormous respect for the work and mission of IJM. Thanks for sharing your story - a painful topic, but much needed and worthy of thought.

Len Crawford

I have a daughter in the Peace Corp in Guatemala. Is there a more complete story of this that I could send her.
thanks for sharing

Angelise Anderson

Zoe, that was absolutely beautiful. Thank you for reminding us of the importance of both sides.


I actually tried to find the story on their website, and wasn't able to. Here is their Latin America page, however, that does give some more information about Guatemala: http://www.ijm.org/ourwork/latinamerica

Kevin Morrow

Hey, Zoe,

Well-said! I have often said that even the justice of God, while absolutely fair and right, is not "good" in the absolute sense, because it involves loss and punishment. Only mercy, forgiveness and redemption can rise to that high standard. To stop at justice falls far short of the ultimate plan of God for our fallen world.

Rolley Haggard

Happily, in Christ, God is both “JUST and the Justifier…of the ungodly” (Romans 3:26 & 4:5). Because of Christ God is “faithful and JUST to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 2:2). Thanks to Christ becoming our Substitute, justice has switched sides, and is actually FOR the believing sinner, not against him, making it possible for us to truthfully declare,

“When I before the Throne shall stand, as every mortal creature must,
The Word doth promise me that hour an Advocate shall plead my case.
Not by His words, but by His wounds, He’ll prove a single verdict JUST:
“Already punished! Paid in full! Not guilty! Justified by grace!”

“Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” (Psalm 85:10)

Rolley Haggard

Oops, make that 1 John 1:9, not 1 John 2:2.

&^#*%@! keyboard.

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