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.
16 And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption.
Sometimes we think of justice and mercy as opposites. From the perspective of a single individual, that may be true: leniency may be merciful, and the full application of justice may seem harsh and unmerciful. But when you consider both the wrongdoer and the victim, the relationship between justice and mercy becomes less simple. Mercy to a wrongdoer may be both unjust and unmerciful to the victim. A reduction in a debt may seem merciful to a borrower but would be both unjust and unmerciful to the lender.
Our Father in Heaven is perfectly just. He “cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance” (Alma 45:16, D&C 1:31). But He is also merciful and loving to His children. (See Psalm 86:5.) How can both of these statements be true? As Alma teaches in the passage above, God is willing to compensate for the debts we owe to other people, satisfying the demands of justice on our behalf, if we are willing to accept His help. Thus, both the victim and the wrongdoer (or the debtor and the creditor) receive a fair and a merciful outcome: the victim is made whole and the wrongdoer is given leniency. God makes up the difference.
But there is a condition. We accept this gift by “exercis[ing] faith unto repentance.” As Alma teaches above, “he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice.” Only when we choose to repent will God’s mercy “satisfy the demands of justice and [encircle us] in the arms of safety.”
Today, I will be thankful for the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which enables me to overcome the full consequences of my wrong choices. I will remember that the Savior’s sacrifice compensates for both harm that has been done to me and for harm I have caused to others. When I make mistakes, I will choose to repent, knowing that God has paid an unfathomable price to insulate me from the full weight of justice, even as He maintains perfect order and justice in the universe.