Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Culture Favors Mercy but Hate Judgment

Culture Favors Mercy and Hates Judgment
(Current events that inspired this article:  Refugees, Immigration, the Pope favors "mercy" over "judgment", debate of public duty to provide health insurance" , Sexual "self-identification", and other issues of the day that have this common theme.)

Most people seem to favor mercy over judgment, even to the point of wanting to obscure or erase all of the “lines” that distinguish good from bad, or truth from lies. Although Christians should understand that the nature of God embodies grace and mercy, as well has judgment and punishment, we seem reluctant to embrace the latter, while blindly (and loudly) proclaiming the former. Modern American culture proclaims a “progressive” posture that regards humans as fully capable of defining their own identity, and determining their own destiny. Failing to learn anything from history, modernism continues to assert (against the evidence) that man does not need God, or His “silly” rules.
Within the Roman Catholic church, there is a sharp schism dividing those who favor blurring lines between good and evil (including the Pope) from those conservatives who hold fast to the traditional teachings of the Bible.   Within Protestantism, the same schism is observed where many denominations/churches are comfortable absorbing all manner of culturally-inspired behaviors and beliefs and placing those ahead of clear, unambiguous, Biblical teaching. “Professing themselves to be wise [the modern church] became fools”.  (Ro 1:22)
Mercy is an acknowledgement that “There, but for the grace of God, go I”.  Judgment is the acknowledgement that God’s rules, and the standards of behavior, are right, and true, and that we are duty-bound to obey them or face the consequences.   These concepts are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they operate best when in balanced harmony with each other.  Warning others of the perils of sin, and pointing out with specificity, the standards by which righteousness is defined, is inarguably the greatest act of mercy.  
How often I have heard complaints of the agnostic or atheist or “nominal Christian” that “We don’t want you cramming your [Christian] beliefs down our throats”.  Fair enough.   But neither do I want (nor will I tolerate) your poor choices (i.e. rejection of sound principles) to create additional burdens on me or my family. Christianity does not COMPEL people to believe a certain way, but based upon the belief (and faith) it DOES establish a proven system of family, community and national parameters by which ALL people, regardless of personal belief, may prosper. While we may appreciate the application of mercy when we fail (individually) to operate within those parameters, the failure of the system to enforce the rules (corporately) will result in the destruction of the system.
Whether it be the Pope, or the President, or a parent, of any other person in authority, the mandate of our “office” is that we consistently, faithfully, and uniformly, apply the fundamental principles.  Apply this idea to any discussion in the public arena.  Is the world a better place with, or without abortion on demand?  Are we made better, or worse, as a result of national health insurance? Are we made stronger, or weaker, when our children are spoiled and people always take the “easy path”?  Is life sweeter when we tolerate wickedness in our midst, or when we become so “enlightened” that we no longer even recognize wickedness?

Mercy is a good thing when it reminds of our sinful state and draws us back into a relationship with God in Christ. It is NOT a good thing when it ceases to be “mercy” and becomes instead “tolerance”.  Judgment is the mechanism whereby we keep that distinction clear. It is the duty of civil government to be the “minister of God for judgment” (Ro 13: 4) and it is the duty of the Church to be the minister of God for Grace. In that sense, those who advocate a ‘separation of church and state” are absolutely correct.  NOT that the church has no legitimate role in the maintenance of social order, but that both church and state have “joint custody” with distinct roles to achieve a common outcome. God’s rules [should] govern both institutions.  When those institutions are united in common principles we have genuine community (“common” + “unity”). When both institutions abandon the fundamental principles, they become “partners in crime” and the people will become slaves of the juggernaut –the Leviathan about which Thomas Hobbes wrote.
John Sterling
March 14, 2017

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