Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Mercy and Justice: Clearing Up Some Confusion

Mercy and Justice are two attributes of God. He exercises them both. And he has given us the responsibility of exercising them as well.

But we have somehow become confused. I mean a boatload of us. And not just non-Christians, either.

Jesus personally instructed us to care for the poor, the widow, the orphan. God's Word in general teaches us to be kind and compassionate and hospitable.

But who are these instructions, these admonitions, directed toward? I suggest to you that they are directed to His people, the body of Christ, the Church.

Mercy is one of the primary ministries of the Church. In addition to preaching the Word, and proclaiming and teaching His ways, we are to conduct ourselves in the earth as conduits of God's unfailing mercy and grace. We are to demonstrate His love in many and various ways, giving of our time and resources, and of our hearts to aid and assist those in need.

Justice on the other hand is primarily the role of the state. God has meeted out His authority to the state to keep order, to protect, defend, and enforce the rights of the individual.

Just as the Church has no power to enforce the law, to act as an arbiter of justice in the civil sphere, so the state's role is not, primarily, the care and nurture and feeding of individual souls.

And this is where things have gotten off track. And I mean WAY off track!

Today we have a state, a civil government, acting in the role of the Church. We have a state taking care of people--lots of them. And just as it is not the role of the Church to arrest people, to wage wars, to execute and carry out justice, so it is not the role of the state to care for the poor, the underprivileged, the needy.

Now some might argue that what the state is really doing by caring for the poor and downtrodden is actually part of the arm of justice. There are many, many Christians who believe this. I do not.

What the state did do, and did correctly in my view, was to step in and right some of the wrongs of the past. Case in point: When black citizens rose up in the '60's to march for their denied rights, the state stepped in to right those wrongs, to correct those errors, to fix what was broken, and to punish the evildoers. That is the arm of justice, and the tasks carried out in that decade, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and related efforts to tear down barriers to certain elements of our society, were needed. And the state was doing its job, exercising its arm of justice.

But the state did not stop with simply correcting bad laws and punishing those who broke them. They began to dole out massive sums of money to aid and assist the underprivelged, the previously denied, the discrimnated against. Over the last forty years, our Federal Government has been dispensing mercy to millions in the form of entitlements.

Mercy is the role of the Church, not the State.

So, since the mid-1960's, since Johnson's "Great Society," the state has been stepping over a God-drawn boundary and into the role of the Church. In essence, the state became, and yet remains, a counterfeit-church, and its government workers, pseudo-priests.

There are reasons for this happening, and the fingers point back to us, God's people. I will have more to say on this soon, but I just wanted to get down some preliminary thoughts.


At 2:21 PM, Blogger Brian McCrorie said...

I think you're right on the money, Mark. If we, as citizens of the Kingdom of God, live as instructed in the Sermon on the Mount, we will exude mercy in our every day life. While I think the purpose of the church is more in the lines of evangelism and discipleship, one of the grace gifts given to Christians is mercy. If Christians lived in a biblically authentic manner, mercy would abound in our society. As a result, "men would see your good works" and hopefully many more would come into the family of God.


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