One of the questions that keeps coming up in our conversations is whether an emphasis on uncondemning mercy, love, and compassion will leave us with an unhealthy devaluation of moral law, spiritual virtue, and social order.
Who among us hasn’t by now seen or read the drama of life that gives us the answer?
The Ten Commandments, or something similar, have always provided a degree of social order– if offenders are quickly stoned or otherwise executed. Who can deny that an eye for an eye approach does restrain a certain amount of social disruption, even where rulers are self-serving despots.
Law draws lines in the sand and when enforced with sufficient power and authority does carry the weight of justice– cruel and oppressive as it may be.
But this is where the big story of the Bible drags us back to a better reality. Moral and spiritual law didn’t end up making Israel better than other nations. Whenever the law was administered by self-serving monarchs (beginning with Saul and continuing with and beyond Solomon), evil grew disproportionately in the hands and hearts of those who carried the sword.
Only with the arrival of a different kind of King, who sacrificed himself, for the criminals at his side—and for the rest of us as well– did we get a different answer… a new kind of result—“against which there is no law”.
So why would those of us who know the new answer fall back into the old broken law and order approach that combines understandable backlash with a predictable, disproportionate growth of evil in the hands and hearts of those who carry the sword?
The issue is not that a message of uncondemning mercy, love, and compassion will predictably result in an unhealthy devaluation of moral law, spiritual virtue, and social order. When practiced in the name and Spirit of Christ, that is the only solution that results in the kind of changed lives that the law can never give (Gal 5:1); (Gal 5:13-14); (Gal 5:15); (Gal 5:16); (Gal 5:22-23).
If the Body of Christ doesn’t stay on message, how can we avoid being increasingly and rightly counted among those oppressive social systems– that none of us would choose for ourselves or our children.
How can we of all people afford to get lost in the woods… when we’ve seen the one tree… that leads us to the only answer that can change our hearts, when we walk in it.