A Context for Love and Mercy

There are so many differing opinions and beliefs. It occurs in the political realm, and also in the theological realm. It must be a consequence of Babel. I’d like to describe something that might be agreeable to people who usually disagree with my own opinions and beliefs. It’s about love and mercy.

Generally, everyone would be in favor of love and mercy, especially at those times when we might be the recipient of them. Even the most legalistic Muslim would joyfully receive mercy from his god rather than damnation for his sins, would he not? It seems to me that all liberals, all conservatives, and the squishy-squashy people in the middle; all Christians, all pagans, and all those conflicted atheists are in favor of love and mercy, in some form, at some time.

The point I’d like them all to consider is that love and mercy don’t exist in a vacuum. Imagine pure anarchy: the lack of rule or law. How could anyone show love or mercy in a context like that? Mercy is unnecessary, because it would be impossible to do wrong. Love is undefined, because there would be no expectations on inter-personal relationships.

In order for mercy to exist among us, there must be the possibility of earning certain, definite punishments. In order for love to exist, there must be some kind of inter-personal behavior considered to be the norm, to make loving behavior distinguishable.

Someone might argue that love and mercy are just nonsense syllables until each of us assigns our own meanings to them. That is nonsense, and is easily demonstrated as false by simply communicating with one another, in any number of languages. No, there is some kind of mutual understanding we have of these two words, and that understanding requires that the things they represent have a context of laws and norms.

I’d like to write more about this later. For now, here is an exercise for the reader. Ask yourself: “What laws and norms exist to provide a context for love and mercy, from where have they come, and how are they enforced?”

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