8 And thus God breaketh the bands of death, having gained the victory over death; giving the Son power to make intercession for the children of men—
9 Having ascended into heaven, having the bowels of mercy; being filled with compassion towards the children of men; standing betwixt them and justice; having broken the bands of death, taken upon himself their iniquity and their transgressions, having redeemed them, and satisfied the demands of justice.
“Don’t we all implore that grace will compensate for our weaknesses, that mercy will triumph over justice at least in our case?” (“Are We Not All Beggars?” Jeffrey R. Holland, General Conference, October 2014).
A fundamental message of the Book of Mormon is that justice alone would not serve any of us well. We all fall short of perfection, and if we received only what we deserved, we would not be happy. For example:
- Alma talks about the repentant being “[encircled]…in the arms of safety” instead of being “exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice” (Alma 34:16).
- Lehi taught his sons that “men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil” and that “by the law no flesh is justified” (2 Nephi 2:5).
- King Benjamin warned that for the unrepentant, “the demands of divine justice do awaken his immortal soul to a lively sense of his own guilt, which doth cause him to shrink from the presence of the Lord, and doth fill his breast with guilt, and pain, and anguish, which is like an unquenchable fire, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever” (Mosiah 2:38).
In the passage above, Abinadi teaches us how the Savior overcomes this predicament: He personally satisfies the demands of justice on our behalf. He doesn’t ignore justice. He doesn’t pretend that it doesn’t exist. Instead, at great personal cost, He pays the price: He suffers the consequences of our sins so that we don’t have to. In the prior chapter, Abinadi quoted the following description from Isaiah:
This is the central message of the gospel: Jesus Christ was willing to give us a gift that we did not deserve in order to help us avoid an unhappy fate. Knowing this, is it any wonder that His disciples are expected to make sacrifices on behalf of people who don’t deserve their help? “Love your enemies,” He says, “bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). King Benjamin teaches us that we should give to the beggar, even if “the man has brought upon himself his misery” (Mosiah 4:16-23). The Savior has given us a gift which we did not deserve at great personal cost, and His disciples are expected to do likewise. We have to learn to overcome our sense of fairness and give to others according to their needs, not according to our perception of what they deserve.
Today, I will remember that the Savior stands “betwixt [me] and justice.” As His disciple, I will strive to do the same for other people: not to bend the rules, not to pretend that justice doesn’t exist, but to be willing to make sacrifices on their behalf, to be willing to absorb some of the consequences of their actions, to shield them from the full impact of justice.