Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Give That Which Comes First - Compassion and Mercy

A Rebellious Son

18 “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, 19 then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, 20 and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ 21 Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.   - Deuteronomy 21:18-21 English Standard Version (ESV)

That Which Comes First - Compassion and Mercy

Does the above scripture seem a little harsh, upon reflection, at least for this day and age?  Yet it was once considered "The Law" of the land and is still referred to as such regarding it's passages in the Bible.  It served a purpose, it was to "purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear."  Such is from the word of God as it was written, and nothing has changed as to how it is still written in the Bible today.  The question is, how have we changed?

Yes, the Old Testament of the Bible and the Koran both have within their texts many seemingly outdated prescriptions of death within "the Law".  These have historically justified such ultimate punishment for activities deemed "sin" ranging from the execution of guilty individuals to the wholesale slaughter of entire enemy populations, sometimes even inclusive of their livestock animals. 

In ancient times the people would hear of this and would fear and thus the purpose of such a seemingly murderous sentence would be served, however, thankfully today most of us living in the civilized and educated world recognize that such religious based law was written very long ago, given by God to men in each instance as being fully appropriate for a certain culture, time and place. Some of these laws as given still carry meaning and purpose across all cultures, times and places, but some others certainly do not, at least in my humble opinion.  

As for the harshest of their own early laws, "The Jews no longer have the stomach for it" as one writer has said, and let us all be thankful for that considering the effectiveness of their own diaspora. Our world is a much smaller place than it used to be with regards to travel of ideas and news as well as people across increasingly thin borders and merging cultures. While the world continues to change ever more rapidly, however, there remain some places and some cultures which still abide in the old, often harsh ways of the Holy Scriptures and perhaps it is a natural choice for such people to remain in keeping with their own beliefs and heritage.  Within the borders of a sovereign country "the King must be obeyed" and even in cases where there is no longer any king there are always leaders who will step up to serve their own particular corner of civilization in this respect.  

Problems develop easily, however, when cultures still bearing the old ways tend to migrate along with people into lands where their old laws, their old kings and old spiritual leaders do not rule.  Too often of late such people refuse to assimilate or at least acknowledge and honor the laws and prevailing culture of their newly adopted homeland, seeking to yet preserve their own heritage.  But just how often do the greatest of mankind's problems develop when certain men of influence put their own selfish desires for leadership and power ahead of any actual consideration for the welfare of their own, often easily misguided people? Could it be that some men are seeking ever more power and wealth for themselves in a new land which promises such opportunity?  Is such action a motivation born of a desire for serving God or serving man, or does it consist mainly of a less than noble element often found in the nature of man?

It is one thing for a charitable country to accept and welcome immigrants, particularly those desperate for a new home, but it is quite another to accept foreign invaders bent upon ultimately crushing the indigenous culture which in hindsight foolishly opened their doors to welcome such an invasion.  Such rude guests as they seem bear the risk of also rapidly finding themselves suddenly unwelcome and being forced to migrate yet again, hopefully without incurring a bloodbath in the process.  There is a universal prescription for rude guests, and yet another one for foreign invaders.

It is said that God is not the author of confusion, so when in doubt it may be time to simply take a step back and ask ourselves, "What is to be considered first?"  Roughly half of our world's population bears a collective history as Jews, Christians, and Muslims.  As such, we all comprise a too often ill recognized brotherhood of faith in the God of Abraham despite having obvious doctrinal differences as would be expected with how the various Holy Scriptures came to be delivered in each case.  Most importantly, what can we now learn from each other? 

For the majority of us who worship the God of Abraham, those earlier harsh versions of required righteousness for much of The Law has largely and thankfully been replaced by compassion and mercy as truly being God's way. Aside from the Jews reportedly "no longer having the stomach for it", this is epitomized for Christians in the person and message of Jesus Christ regardless of whether he is regarded as rabbi, messiah, or prophet.   Likewise this is epitomized in the very words known well by Muslims, "In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful", because these words form the beginning of each surah of the Holy Koran.  This always comes first for a very good reason, that we refresh ourselves regularly to know what is truly the way of God.

Compassion and mercy, may each of our days also start with the same words lingering on our hearts, for we are all rebellious sons and daughters upon whom God's judgment shall fall soon enough.  Let us rely upon compassion and mercy for as you have given, so shall you also receive.