When forgiveness happens at the expense of justice the effect is to diminish both the forgiveness and the integrity of the one offering it.
This is the kind of problem that Chris Arnade decribes in a recent article in the Guardian. He spent much of his life as a Wall Street trader, but left that to document the lives of street people and drug addicts. The title of his article tells it all, “The wealthy 'make mistakes', the poor go to jail.” It seems we have a justice system that is not very just. It is one that is quick to show “mercy” and leniency to people with money, and just as quick to inflict the full weight of justice on those with nothing.
If you are a rich person and you commit the same crime as a poor person, but you are “pardoned” while they go to jail, you may be happy that you escaped justice. But deep down you know the system has failed. You are not more worthy to walk free than the other person. And you might wonder if a system so unjust might not catch up with you. If the judge broke his oath to the law, he can break his word to you. Under the right circumstances you could be sold to a higher bidder. At some point in the future you could end up in jail anyway. That is not a very secure pardon. The statement, “there but for the grace of God go I” is not fitting in your case, because it wasn’t God’s grace that spared you but a system that understands neither justice nor mercy.
That is why I John 1:9 is such a comforting promise. “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” God’s forgiveness is not something offered as a back room favor to a privileged few at the expense of justice. God’s forgiveness is offered to all without discrimination because Jesus paid the full price for our sins. We committed the capital crime and he went to death row. We destroyed valuable treasures, he repaid the bill at the cross. And he has promised to forgive all who come to him in faith and repentance. That is a great comfort.
God recognizes the full weight of my sin. When my conscience tells me that I have done awful things, God does not disagree. In fact, in the eyes of justice, we are worse than we realize. But he knows it, and still sent Christ to pay our debt. Our consciences can rest in the work of Jesus. He is faithful and just to forgive us!