The Power of Mercy

Mat 5:

7 "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

(NET Bible®)

Is the Religious Right right? Should we invoke the Might of the State to improve personal morality? Based on my Old Testament study the answer is a very qualified “yes.” Even heathens outside the Holy Land are subject to divine wrath for certain sins, and if my reading is correct, those sins include abortion (if we consider it to be child sacrifice) and some sexual variations, including homosexuality.

Whether one should consider the remaining morality laws in the Old Testament apropos is debatable. While it is true that the Law of Moses was to be enforced in the Holy Land to Hebrew and Gentile alike, there was no mandate to enforce the Law in lands beyond. There was no call to conquer Egypt or Babylon in order to make the people there shape up. When the Jews were captive in Babylon, they were not told to convert the Babylonians by the sword. There is no record of Daniel outlawing idol worship or other heathen practices while he was governor of Babylon. Ditto for Joseph in Egypt.

Even if we treat the United States as a Christian nation and somehow an extension of the Holy Land we run up with difficulties with parts of the Right’s agenda. The case for laws against recreational drugs and heterosexual prostitution are very weak. Our immense prison system is an outright abomination. In many areas the Law of Moses is quite liberal. Welfare funding got a higher priority than police or military funding.

And where the Law is rightwing, it is really rightwing – so far to the right that we’d need to kill most everyone in the country.

Exodus 31:

14 So you must keep the Sabbath, for it is holy for you. Everyone who defiles it must surely be put to death; indeed, if anyone does any work on it, then that person will be cut off from among his people.

15 Six days work may be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of complete rest, holy to the LORD; anyone who does work on the Sabbath day must surely be put to death.

(NET Bible®)

The Sabbath runs from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. The execution list would include most members of the Religious Right.

Problems remain even if we amend the Law to move the Sabbath to Sunday.

Exodus 35:

2 In six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there must be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of complete rest to the LORD. Anyone who does work on it will be put to death.

3 You must not kindle a fire in any of your homes on the Sabbath day."

(NET Bible®)

If you start an automobile, you kindle thousands of brief fires. You need to walk, ride a bike, or drive an electric car to church. Religious conservatives need to go very green to be in full compliance.

Of course, if we were to enforce the Law to Exodus standards, we’d solve most of our environmental problems through massive depopulation. But this is a rather unpleasant solution. We might want to look at the New Testament, to what Jesus said, for alternatives.

And what Jesus called for is mercy.

In the chapters that follow we’ll explore what that means, as well as the penalties for not being merciful.