The heart leads us all over the place and this can happen in particular with lawsuits.  I remember reading a missionary story about a man who had a legal dispute with his brother-in-law.  The two men went before the missionary woman who somehow had become a judge in their village.  The man who owed his brother-in-law but couldn’t repay was clearly in the wrong.   He wasn’t able to make things right but he was also angry with the brother-in-law because nightly this man beat the pulp out of his sister.   He couldn’t stand this abuse and felt it was unjust to pay his brother-in-law when he was treating his own flesh and blood sister to terribly.  So the missionary had to decide what was just.  Should the abusive brother-in-law win the case because he was in the right?  Or should the brother win because while he knew he was in the wrong, he wanted to protect his sister?  In our culture we would separate this offenses and deal with each one accordingly, but in group culture and village life these issues are not so easily separated.  Legal matters often relationship based.  (In one village I know about unforgiveness is the most serious crime you can commit–worse than murder, adultery, etc…)  So if you were in this woman’s shoes, how would you make a decision?

Justice is important and no one is exempt.  The very first verse in the Bible regarding the poor talks about two sides we can sway to in regards to the poor.  Our compassionate and tender side would like to extend grace and mercy to the poor man when a lawsuit is brought against him.  Yet our people pleasing side would like to side with the crowd.  Which one is correct?  Which is more like God?  Neither of them.  God expects justice.

Ex 23:2 “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd, and do not show favoritism to a poor person in a lawsuit.

 “Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits

Lev 19:15 “‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly. 

So the poor man is neither above justice or below it, like any fellow human being he is subject to it.  If he is guilty then we must not show him favoritism no matter where our heart strings are tugging.  If he is in the right, then neither we do not deny him/her justice.  Decisions are not based on the money in their pockets or the crowds at their back, but by the righteousness or unrighteousness of their actions.   This is the heart of God

So how did the missionary woman respond?  The brother was handed the verdict that he was in the wrong and had to make amends to his brother-in-law.  The brother-in-law smugly rejoiced over the brother.  The crowd was disappointed but knew the woman had done the legally right thing.  But the missionary woman didn’t stop there.  She then issued another verdict.  She told the brother that at an appointed time he was to beat his brother-in-law harshly in front of the village elders for what he had done to his sister, and if for any reason he showed any mercy to his brother-in-law, he himself would be most severely punished.   The people were amazed at the woman’s wisdom.