Week 1: Justice and Mercy



Inspired by Love and Anger

Text: John L. Bell (1949– ), Graham Maule (1958– ), 1987

Tune: Keith Getty (1974– ), Kristyn Getty (1980– ), 2005

  1. What role does the idea of “righteous anger” play in a Christian life? Is it possible to take it too far? Do you have examples of this from personal experience or current events?

    • “Righteous anger” is not bad in itself; remember Jesus angrily overturning the moneychangers’ tables at the temple (Matthew 21:12-13, John 2:13-16)
      • When considering Jesus’ reaction, some have pointed out that “reason is appropriate when the problem is merely a misunderstanding, but judgment is appropriate when the problem is willful disobedience”
    • Social media has increased the role of “public shaming” in society, which often morphs into a form of “vigilante justice” whose effects people don’t often see
      • The case of Justine Sacco is one example - an insensitive tweet caused her to be labeled “racist”, fired from her job, accosted and threatened
      • See this article for a full story:
  2. An additional third verse reads:

    From those forever shackled to what their wealth can buy,
    The fear of lost advantage provokes the bitter cry,
    “Don’t query our position! Don’t criticise our wealth!
    Don’t mention those exploited by politics and stealth!”

    This seems to be quite a sharply-worded rebuke of the rich; do you think such strong language is warranted? Are there other groups not mentioned that should also be singled out for living unjustly?

    • Critiques of the rich are common both in the Bible and today
      • Remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:24 ("…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God…")
      • For current examples, think of “Occupy Wall Street” and the so-called “one-percenters”
    • Remember also Luke 12:48 ("…to whom much is given, much is required.")

There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy

Text: Frederick William Faber (1814–1863), 1862

Tune: Lizzie Tourjée Estabrook (1858–1913), 1877

  1. Although Bell focuses on the theme of justice, and Faber on the theme of mercy, what similarities do you see between their two hymns? What does “There’s a Wideness” say about the relationship between justice and mercy?

    • Faber’s original title “Come to Jesus” echoes the final verse of “Inspired by Love”
    • “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy … There’s a kindness in His justice”: justice isn’t justice without mercy and kindness
  2. Read verse 9 from Faber’s original version of the hymn. What does Faber see as the difference between human justice and divine justice?

    • Human nature can often take “justice” and turn it into “strictness” that God never intended
    • The idea of an “unforgivable sin” is a purely human one, and one that changes over time. What things do people consider “unforgivable sins” today?
  3. Compare the final verse from the original text against the version in the United Methodist hymnal. Does this change the meaning of the hymn at all to you? Which version do you think fits better in context?

    • “take Him at His word” vs. “rest upon God’s word”
      • Suggests believing what He says is true, rather than simply saying “remember to read the Bible”
    • “all sunshine in the sweetness of our Lord” vs. “illumined by the presence of our Lord”
      • A generic picture of happiness (maybe overly so?) is replaced with God “lighting our way” through life
    • The original message “come to Jesus” seems targeted at non-believers, the new version seems more applicable to those who already believe