I am currently reading a book titled The World’s Religions, by Huston Smith. In the chapter on Judaism, Smith quotes a rabbi who uses a simple story to describe the relationship between justice and mercy:
A king had some empty glasses. He said, “If I pour hot water into them they will crack; if I pour ice-cold water into them they will will also crack!” What did the king do? He mixed the hot and the cold water together and poured it into them and they did not crack. Even so did the Holy One, blessed be He, say: “If I create the world on the basis of the attribute of mercy alone, the world’s sins will greatly multiply. If I create it on the basis of the attirbute of justice alone, how could the world endure? I will therefore create it with both the attributes of mercy and justice, and may it endure!”
Mercy and justice. Both are present in God’s dealings with us. Both must also be present in our dealings with each other.