A Perfect, Just God, and a Merciful God Also – Alma 42:15

15 And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also.

We tend to think of justice and mercy as polar opposites. When a leader is excessively just, we label him or her “draconian,” while a leader who is too merciful is labeled “permissive.” We tend to think that the ideal leader (or teacher or parent) maintains a healthy balance between justice and mercy, between strictness and kindness.
But God is perfectly just, and He is also merciful. How is this possible? As Alma explains, through the Atonement, God enables us to avoid the demands of justice through repentance.
Why must we repent? As Amulek taught, God saves us from our sins, not in our sins. If He allowed us to continue sinning indefinitely with no consequences, He would not be just. His Atonement overcomes the effects of our sins, but only if we abandon those sins. “None but the truly penitent are saved” (Alma 42:24).
I think we can benefit by following God’s example in our own leadership roles. The universe is governed by law. As parents and as leaders, we can’t change that. We may be able to insulate those we lead from the effects of their actions for a time. That may be appropriate, particularly when those we lead are not prepared to face the full consequences of their actions. However, this is not a sustainable model, and our goal must be to help them progress until they no longer need that insulation.
Today, I will remember that to be merciful is not to abandon justice. If I shield those I lead from the natural consequences of their actions, I will remember that my intervention is temporary. I haven’t changed the law, nor can I. My objective is to give them room to grow, so that they can learn to live in harmony with truth and in accordance with eternal principles.
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