Have you used this phrase to justify your actions or heard someone say it to justify theirs?
I personally was faced with a situation in which from the principle of the matter I was justified in acting a certain way. Those looking from the outside would equate these actions with being cold, business like and impersonal, but justified. I didn't like how it made me feel. Thankfully, sometimes our God communicates to us through our internal senses; our conscience.
I was talking with a friend about it. I remember having conversations about having to give way to keep the peace in the house because it was family. Now the person I was having an issue wasn’t blood family but if one lives our faith, everyone, especially a baptized catholic is a member of the family. I should treat a neighbour or even a stranger as I would treat my family. Now this was a challenge.
It was at this time that something clicked in my mind; our life doesn't work by living on principles. I remembered the prodigal son parable and thought about how the prodigal father acted. The father, when asked by his youngest son for his inheritance could have responded by saying "No, you aren't getting any of my fortune until I die". Everyone would have understood and agreed with his actions. His son would have gone away from his father angry.
By giving his inheritance to his son prematurely, some maybe would have said that the father was spoiling his son.
Are we put in this world to be the bearer of the rod or the bearer of mercy?
Emotions carry us away. They boil up and start to direct our actions and how we live our lives. Mercy requires a special grace from God. To relinquish our rights, our "principles" and "give way" is difficult. We can't do it alone.
But think also of our father Abraham and how he dealt with his brother Lot. "Let there be no quarrel, I beseech thee, between me and thee" Genesis 13:1:8. In Romans 14:19 it is written "let us be always seeking the ways which lead to peace".
So it was now that I realized that allowing my actions to be driven by principle is not what God asks of us but rather we are encouraged to acquiesce, to trust in God's providence and walk the path we would not choose for ourselves.
Abraham's path led him to the Promised Land and the prodigal father was alive to see his youngest son become enlightened, return to his senses and welcome him with open arms back into his home.
Remember, in principle, Jesus did not have to die. Jesus died on the cross out of mercy he had for us.