We undoubtedly live in a strange time. We live in such a period when it appears as if our present estate is doomed to change every morning. We have seen, in this week alone, the great upheaval of the norms of our society, whether you consider the arrest of two individuals at a Psalm-singing gather in Moscow, Idaho, the unceasing violence between individuals, or even the tasing of an unarmed mother at her son’s high school football game.
Things are not as they should be. Can we agree with that? Every single day, we are reminded of that. Regardless of where you find yourself in the political spectrum (and if you are uncertain a series of ads on your phone will help usher you along), we can all agree that there is a problem. However, what we cannot agree upon is what is the solution.
How do you fix a society which has turned in on itself and no longer upholds a sense of decency for one another? Where would you go to look for an example of such things?
Our congregation has been working through the Book of the Covenant (Exodus 21-23). These were God’s commands to Moses and the people of Israel. They were chiefly examples of case laws and apodictic laws for interpreting the Ten Commandments (given in Exodus 20). Today, as Christians, we do not hold that there is a simple carry-over from the judicial laws of the Mosaic covenant up to today. We believe that Christ has fulfilled the Law and its demands, and that Israel’s ceremonial laws (those laws concerning worship for the time before Christ) and Israel’s civil laws (those laws concerning the theocratic reign of Israel) are fulfilled and abrogated.
We do, however, believe that there is a sense of “general equity” or carry-over from the moral sense of these laws. This means that each law contained in these chapters reflect a moral characteristic of the nature of God, and thus remains relevant for today. We find, for example, that God is not indifferent about the abuse of the poor, of disadvantaged women, of aliens and the like. He warns Israel on the one hand with His covenant curses (Exodus 22:24), and He grounds this law for concern in His character, “I am compassionate.” (Exodus 22:27)
We have lost sight of our need for compassion. And as long as we are more concerned with being heard than being compassionate, this chaotic cycle of violence, abuse, and indifference will continue. But the basis for our compassion cannot be grounded in mere humanity. Mere humanity or a secular humanism cannot account for why compassion ought to be preferred over cannibalism. It cannot ground anything in itself because it inherently is established on the foundations of time and chaos, neither of which necessitate the trustworthiness of their observations.
In short, the sort of compassion that we need today is the self-sacrificial compassion exemplified for us in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is not merely a call to recognize the Lord Jesus Christ in His estate of humiliation, meaning His time as a man in days of the Gospels. It is a call to recognize the compassion of Christ in His estate of humiliation (on earth) and His estate of exaltation (now presently as He is seated at the right hand of God the Father).
We are not gobbled up by the earth around us solely because of the self-sacrificial compassion of Christ. He withholds His hand of justice until the Last Day. There may, of course, be instances where the penalties of our sins come forward in the present, but its climactic unveiling awaits His Second Coming.
We continue to stand where we are today because God is compassionate towards us. God has not given us what we deserve. That is, of course, for the moment. We are perhaps seeing His hand provide us with His judgments today. How long have we stood opposed to Him? How long have we been indifferent towards Him? How long have we simply lived for ourselves? Scripture is ripe with examples that God does not allow the wicked to prosper.
More than anything else what we need is the power of God to transform our hearts. We must be made like Him. Or else we will continue to battle one another, until there is nothing left but a legacy of hate, indifference, violence, and the assertion of power. Only the power of the Gospel can change that. For without Christ at the center of our lives, all we have are groundless assertions surging us forward unto the boiling depths of Charybdis. May the God of all power and peace, who establishes kingdoms and rulers, bring peace upon our land through the mighty working of His Gospel proclaimed to us by means of His pastors and people.
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