By: Pal Murano – September, 2019
In our era that emphasizes love as mercy, let us not forget that love is also justice. Compassion and mercy encompass only one side of love. Truth and justice make up the other. It is like the two sides of a coin: it fails to be a coin without both heads and tails. Likewise, love fails to be love without both truth and compassion.
God is love (1 Jn 4:8). This means He is both just ‘and’ merciful: He commands ‘and’ is compassionate. He punishes ‘and’ forgives. He shows tough love ‘and’ soft love to His people. If the two sides of love are not properly balanced for the objective good, you end up with a false notion of love. Justice without mercy can be harsh and hopeless, while mercy without justice is pure sentimentality. With regard to the latter, compassion without truth leads to enabling and tenderness without truth to abuse.
Because of the imperfection and imbalance of human nature, we have seen the pendulum swing to both extremes throughout history. This is nowhere more prevalent than in American culture of the past 75 years. Before the 1960s and Vatican II, one could say the pendulum had swung firmly over to the side of truth and justice. Sin and hell were regularly preached from the pulpit. Respect for authority including the law, the police, and the military were the norm. People feared God and children feared their fathers. Discipline in the home was paramount, and self-respect was seen as honor, integrity, chastity, and living in accord with the natural order.
Since that time the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction to the extreme. Forgiveness and compassion are now the emphasis. ‘Tolerance’ and ‘acceptance’ have become the new buzz words. Sin has turned into an alternative lifestyle and guilt a psychological aberration. That is why more people in our day go to counselors than to Confession. If you do not accept everyone’s personal lifestyle you’re a bigot.A PC culture has been created that has gotten so bad that some colleges have created ‘safe zones’ to exercise free speech, and an entire nation’s media culture has gone crazy from having a president who doesn’t kowtow to its constructed narrative and destructive ideas.
Whenever we find ourselves following the trend of ignoring justice and truth to redefine love as “niceness,”let us not forget that love is also: comparing some leaders to a brood of vipers (Mt 12:34), knocking over tables of the greedy and whipping their animals (Jn 2:15), comparing one’s good friend to Satan (Mt 16:23), telling some others they’re following the devil (Jn 8:44), informing friends that if they ‘remarry’ after divorce they commit adultery (Mt 5:32) as they do in their heart when deliberately lusting after women [as in pornography] (Mt 5:28), telling friends that their salvation depends on choosing God even over family members if such a conflict should arise (Mt 10:34-39), and warning people that if they do not repent of their chosen lifestyle they will go to hell (1 Cor 6:9-11). These are also love.
Yes, there is no limit to God’s mercy – to the repentant heart there is nothing God will not forgive a million times over. But we cannot forget that love is also justice, and this means conforming our lives to the truth without ever denying it. Love is not politically correct, nor is it prideful. Love does not act according to disordered desire, utility, or popularity, but only acts for the objective good of the other, despite the sacrifice.
So let us not forget that good will includes both justice and mercy, truth and compassion, affirmation and consolation. Love can be tough or soft, depending on what is needed. It has both masculine and feminine dimensions.Love is a paradox that is both/and, not either/or.
Paul Murano teaches college philosophy and theology and is the talk host of ‘Beneath the Surface’ radio show and podcast. Check out Paul’s website at Paulmurano.com, and email him at PJDM@aol.com.