Saturday, April 2, 2011

Love and Justice

In life, politics, philosophy, and parenting, love and justice can seem like challenging, if not outright incompatible, attributes to combine.  Christians hold God to be both perfectly loving and perfectly just, but even the giants of Christianity have at times struggled to practically unite the two for life here on earth.  In college I took a whole semester Christian religion course called "Love & Justice," and reading hundreds of pages on the subject only seemed to confuse the issue.  As a parent, I have days when showing my kids love and maintaining justice in the ranks feels frustratingly contradictory.  Sheesh, sometimes it's hard to know how to be EITHER just or loving, let alone both.

This week I realized that our Lent bean jar is teaching me a lesson about how God's love and justice come together for me as I bring them together in my parenting.  By way of reminder, during Lent I have set out a jar of dried beans for my kids as well as an Easter basket.  Each time someone does something kind, helpful, generous, sacrificial or particularly obedient, that person gets to take a bean from the jar and put it in the Easter basket, knowing that on Easter the dried beans in the Easter basket will turn into jelly beans.

The Justice Part: I am really specific about when the kids can put a bean in the basket.  I make a special point to tell them what they have done that merits a bean transfer, and we are careful to make sure that the number of beans they pick out and put in the basket doesn't exceed the number of deeds performed. Seeing how much my kids delight in getting to put a bean in the basket sometimes tempts me to let them do it "just for the fun of it" or to artificially multiply things during the day that "merit" a bean.  But, I want the basket to serve as a just reward that draws the kids' attention to positive behaviors and the effect such behaviors can have on their life.

The Love Part:  I realized this week that regardless of how many beans are in the basket on Easter eve, when the beans are transformed into jelly beans, there is no way I am going to count out each dried bean one by one to match each one with a jelly bean.  When the dried beans become jelly beans on Easter, you better believe I am going to HEAP that basket full of jellies.  And I can't wait to do it.  Because when it comes to my contribution to the Easter jellybeans, I want to bless my kids above and beyond what they "earned".  And I realized this week that is how God's love works in my life too.

God's justice knows our every obedience and every shortcoming.  He sees each one, knows them by heart and sees the real effects of every sin and good in our life and the world.  He is also lavish in His love when we lay our inadequate efforts at His feet.  He looks on us with love and showers us with blessing beyond what we deserve.

Not that I won't still struggle at times with how love and justice come together.  But thanks to our bean jar, I see more clearly how we parents can, like God, be both.


Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
I love this post, B! I love how God blesses us beyond all that we could ask or imagine. And certainly beyond what we may "deserve". Keeping you in prayer as you prepare to welcome the new member of the family!
Love, Bette

lotsofjoyfulnoise said...

I love this post too...enough that I have been thinking about it since I read it almost a year ago. I just linked to it in my own recent post about Lenten preparations and then realized I had never told you how much I appreciated the thoughts here. They are wonderful!