|"Justice Tempered by Mercy" a statue at Cumberland School of Law at Samford University|
Compassion vs. Law
Compassion is an individual mandate given in the New Testament. The New Testament is the covenant given to individuals to bring them back to God. The Old Testament is the covenant given to nations to guide them in the path of justice, law and duty.
When we embrace the mercy of the New Testament and ignore the justice of the Old Testament, we get a squishy, mushy form of Christianity that has no spine to stand on its own.
Mercy and tolerance become the watchwords that guide our daily interactions in a selfish world. We tolerate evil because we don't want to seem judgmental or intolerant. How quickly we forget that law was given to guide man in the path that he should go. If there is no law, there is no punishment. If there is no punishment, there is no fear of doing wickedly, and men go according to their own hungers. They do not moderate themselves, and they do not set expectations for those around them to behave moderately.
Without the law to govern our lives, our compassion can be easily swayed by the tides of public sentiment. We must, therefore, hold ourselves to obey the Law given, and require that our representative government do the same.
The Law was given to set up a system of government where justice could prevail. An individual rendering of the Law gave us the Scribes and Pharisees, who touted their own righteousness through obedience to the system.
New Testament is for individuals. Old Testament is for nations. The nation is not required to conform to the individual mandate of compassion, and loving our neighbors - that is my job, and yours. The governments we support - at every level - are required to administer the law in justice and equity, to preserve freedom. Government is required to do what government does best - administer the law through a filtered democracy; in other words, to be a republic.
Rendering Appropriate Action
"Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s." (Matt. 22:21 KJV) Live by the Law. God holds this world in His hands. "He increaseth the nations, and destroyeth them: he enlargeth the nations, and straiteneth them again." (Job 12:23). To render our souls as an offering unto God, we must live according to the Law. That includes active citizenship and participation in the political and social process. It is not digging your heels into the sand and refusing to budge; when you do that, the waves wash out the sand from underneath you.
Rendering appropriate action includes holding representatives accountable for their actions - good and bad. Rendering is not a passive activity. When the tide threatens to undermine all you have built, build a floodwall. Do not allow the natural course of the world to destroy your contribution to history.
Mercy and Justice
The New Testament does not replace the Old Testament. Mercy does not replace justice. We need to find in ourselves the balance of justice and mercy that will guide us in our interactions in our community and family. Obedience to the law, and the requirement that others also obey the law, ensures that we are protected and our rights are preserved. Compassion and mercy ensure that we will not let our neighbors go hungry, or cold, or without clothing in their time of need.
Have a spine. Stand up for what you believe. Expect others to behave according to the law. Express your disappointment when they don't. Do not allow a squishy form of tolerance to govern your life.
To be a disciple means you discipline your life to follow the higher law.