To me, it wasn’t initially a question of mercy or justice. It was just what should have been done. I was shocked when the judge said that our adopted children had done nothing to deserve the life of luxury and happiness that they now enjoyed in our home and family. The legal official was a friend of a friend who served in a former Soviet state. My friend had called me several months earlier to ask if her friend, the judge, could stay with us for a few days during a visit to the United States.
Amy and I have been very fortunate, financially, and the judge was fascinated to see that our children lived in a far nicer home and environment than even most judges or politicians in former Soviet states. The judge came from a place that never questioned mercy or justice. Life was what you made it. The judge had worked hard to have what was considered a life of luxury in the formerly Soviet world. The right schools had been attended and grades were kept high. The family made the right connections and used them. Combinations of hard work, connections, trading of favors, and who-knows what else were all used to great effect to get the judge in that position. There had been no reason for mercy or justice in the judge’s life. The judge was set up for life, as long as no one did anything to fall out of favor; as long as the connections that were used did not lose favor and position. Nothing in life was considered fate, luck, blessing, or happenstance by the judge or anyone who had helped the judge to succeed in life. You plan. You work. You trade. You negotiate. You make the right choices. You make the right connections. Failure is for the weak. Failure is for those stupid enough to do everything else correctly, but who make their beds with the wrong factions. You get what you get because of what you do; including what you do to know who you know. Mercy or justice (true justice) didn’t matter.
At the time of the judge’s visit, one of my Russian daughters had been institutionalized due to severe mental illness. In that daughter’s case of wrong-doing and prosecution, no one thought that there had to be either mercy or justice. That both may have been served was a foreign concept to the judge. By the time that the judge stayed with us, Emily had progressed to the point where we could bring her home for visits. When the judge asked if it was possible to meet our daughter; to tour the facility where she lived, we immediately made the arrangements. When there was nothing to hide, and the judge’s schedule became busier, it was decided that it wasn’t necessary to visit Emily’s residence. When we offered to bring Emily home for dinner one evening, to meet the judge, the offer was readily accepted. I’m sure that the judge was wondering if Emily also questioned mercy or justice and the possibility of them coexisting.
To the judge, justice was the my daughter lived the consequences of her life station, whether or not they were based on her actions. That was what should have happened. there never should have been a reason to consider mercy or justice.
After a large family dinner, the judge asked if it was possible to talk to Emily about her post adoption life. Emily agreed. The judge was most interested in the details of Emily’s residence, treatment and education. It didn’t seem like an interrogation to find wrong-doing as much as what was possible to do in helping those with mental illness to progress, rather than warehousing them. Emily wanted to focus on other subject matter. Why were orphanages unnecessary in the United States, but commonplace in former Soviet states? Why didn’t more children get families, like she did? Both of the conversation participants were matter-of-fact in their responses that nothing was wrong in their current home countries. Life was what it was. At the end of the discussion, the judge firmly told my daughter how lucky she was and that she needed to appreciate the home and family she had received through no merit of her own. While that made me uncomfortable (what happens if people only get what they deserve?), Emily agreed. To the judge, justice was the my daughter lived the consequences of her life station, whether or not they were based on her actions. That was what should have happened. There never should have been a reason to consider mercy or justice.
The next day, long after Emily had returned to her residence, the judge said the thing that bothered me most. It was the core difference between the belief systems of our two cultures. “I don’t understand. These children, these orphans, have done nothing to deserve the life and family that they now have.” I redirected the conversation because there was no way we could understand the other’s position. One of our environments constantly balanced an argument of mercy or justice. The other didn’t bother.
To me, my adopted children had done nothing to deserve the life of heartache, sorrow, loss of home, loss of family and pain that they experienced before their adoptions. To the judge, they simply didn’t deserve the good life.
I love living in a place that worries about mercy or justice. My daughter loves it to. The judge still doesn’t understand.
I much prefer a system where we don’t always get what we deserve. Perhaps that’s why Christianity appeals to me. Life may not be fair, but it is so much better for so many others, when someone else takes over to give a person something that they don’t deserve. Here’s the key, though: The person who needs the gift must be willing to trust. They must be willing to receive and accept a gift that they know they don’t deserve. I love living in a place that worries about mercy or justice. My daughter loves it to. The judge still doesn’t understand.
It took Emily a long time to learn to accept what she had been given. In fact, I see a parallel there with myself, though more in a spiritual sense of considering mercy or justice. What a difference in the belief systems from the places we both originated!
I can’t figure it all out right now. I guess I’ll leave it up to you. YOU BE THE JUDGE! Should all of us get what we deserve without considering mercy or justice? Or is life and eternity better when we don’t?
Your comments matter. Please scroll down and share your thoughts!
More Blogs From John M. Simmons that are Especially for People of Faith
Return to John M. Simmons’ blog
Ensure you don’t miss anything by signing up for Our Weekly Newsletter. This is all you need to be qualified for occasional giveaways like the Kindle Fire that Kristy Goulart won in July!