CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

The Hypocrisy of ‘Compassion’

Apr 30, 2015

Does showing compassion make one a hypocrite? No, of course not – well, at least not necessarily. But I have seen far too many people just recently going on and on about compassion and mercy in a rather hypocritical fashion, and I for one am growing a bit tired of it to be honest.

In fact, I have been really quite astonished at the degree of duplicity and hypocrisy being exhibited by so many. While this of course occurs often, it has been on display big time over recent headlines about what has transpired in Indonesia. There are a number of examples of obvious hypocrisy going on here.

Let me mention just a few of them. First, far too many of these people going on and on about the death of two convicted criminals are utterly silent on other cases of people being put to death. People I never hear from or who are utterly silent on the abortion holocaust are all of a sudden all over the place on this issue.

hypocrisy 2Indeed, they are silent on all sorts of killings, such as the Islamic war on Christians. And they also seem silent on many other things which are so very near the heart of God, such as the ongoing attack on marriage and family. Why do I hardly ever hear these believers discussing these vitally important issues?

Sure, some of the folks carrying on about the death penalty (DP) have spoken about some of these other matters. So it is not them that I am mainly concerned about here (although I think they are dead wrong and biblically amiss to foolishly equate the murder of innocent babies for example with the just punishment of convicted criminals by something ordained by God himself).

A second case of hypocrisy is the selective emphasis on one or two aspects of God and his nature. These Christians claim to represent God yet they have basically latched on to one aspect of who God is, while ignoring much of the rest of who God is. They are so very proud to proclaim that they ‘stand for mercy’ and the like but I never seem to hear a peep out of them standing for things like justice.

Is God merciful and compassionate? Of course he is. Without the compassion of God we would all be toast. Without the mercy of God none of us would be standing today. Without the longsuffering of God we would not dare to even utter his name and contemplate facing him one day.

But he is more than just merciful. He is also just. He is also holy. He is also pure. He is also righteous. But all these attributes of God seem to be non-existent for so many of these believers. It is as if God is only merciful and nothing else.

But to pick one of his attributes and pit it against all the rest is not only completely unbiblical, but it is how most cults and heretics tend to operate. We need the full counsel of God here, and we need to accept God in all his fullness, and not just pick and choose those aspects of God that we happen to prefer, or that make us feel good.

A third clear-cut case of hypocrisy has to do with the selective outrage on display here. I don’t think I have ever heard any of these compassionate types say a word about how their hearts are going out to all those who died because of the drugs sold to them for profit by the drug smugglers. Not a peep about all the grieving families left behind either. Out of sight, out of mind it seems.

Just where are their second chances? How about their ability to hear the gospel message? They do not have those chances of course. They are dead. But these folks carrying on about compassion seem to have very little of it for these poor victims of the drug trade.

They get all worked up about one thing, but something very similar which also results in a tragic loss of life is completely ignored or minimised. Why is that? If I actually heard them going on day after day about all the deaths due to heartless drug smugglers, I would be a bit more receptive to their current concerns.

Fourth, there have been plenty of these folks chastising and chewing out others who happen to differ from them, complaining that at least they could have waited a while before commenting on this since the pair had only just been executed. Yet I noticed that these very same folks posted one thing after another concerning their anti-DP campaign – on the very same day as the execution! Um, hypocrisy much? (And please note: this article has appeared a full day after the event!)

Fifth, there is the obvious and glaring hypocrisy of some of these folks who shout about compassion and mercy and so on, yet will treat me and others they disagree with in a most uncompassionate and unmerciful manner. They think (rightly) that Christians should be merciful and gracious, but when it comes to those with a differing point of view it seems all this much-vaunted mercy and grace goes straight out the window.

A final example of hypocrisy is not only the worst of the hypocrisy on display here, but it is also blatant sinful idolatry which needs to be repented of. I refer to the ultimate in idolatrous hypocrisy, when believers go on and on against something that God himself has instituted: the death penalty. The case for this I have made elsewhere: www.billmuehlenberg.com/2007/10/11/on-capital-punishment-part-1/

I have lost count of how many times I have seen and heard ‘Christians’ say that the death penalty is barbaric, inhumane, terrible, awful, and should have no place in any society, etc. They claim it is evil and must be done away with altogether. Um, so what these folks are really saying is this: ‘I am far more merciful, fair and compassionate than God is.’

Yes, that is in effect exactly what they are saying. They really do believe they are morally superior on this issue, and they are actually taking God to task for even daring to have initiated the death penalty. What a shocking thing to insinuate: that God is wrong about this and that we creatures can do a better job of running the universe. That to me is the height of arrogance and insubordination, and is the most worrying thing I find about some of these folks.

There of course would be other forms of appalling hypocrisy going on here, including national hypocrisy. It is a bit rich of a nation which happily allows the deaths of 100,000 innocent unborn babies a year to go on a moral bender about the death of two convicted drug smugglers in another country.

As one news item notes, “Australia has not withdrawn ambassadors when other Australian citizens have been subjected to the death penalty, including when convicted Australian drug smuggler Van Tuong Nguyen was executed in Singapore in 2005.”

However my beef here is primarily with individuals who are so incensed and so emotionally driven about all this that they seem to be blissfully unaware of all the hypocrisy they are involved in. If you claim to be a Christian and hate the DP so much, that is up to you. One day you will have to explain to God why he was wrong about this and you are right.

But spare us all the constant hypocrisy please. It really does become so very off-putting. And it really does make your case appear to be just so much emotive and knee-jerk reactionary political correctness I am afraid.

And a quick word about the executed pair: if one or both indeed became Christians, then the great news is they are now with Jesus. That is fantastic. We of course still must pray for their grieving families and loved ones. And I will continue to also pray for the grieving families and loved ones of those ravaged and killed by drugs sold to them by others.

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30 Responses to The Hypocrisy of ‘Compassion’

  • I agree completely; good post, Bill!

  • Interesting article Bill with some good balanced points.

    An issue I see with the recent happenings is that the guys who carried out the bali bombings for example got away with jail time. No remorse, in fact I would say celebration at what they had done.

    It is of course to the courts discretion as to how they deal with different cases such as above, but it must also be said that Indonesia is fairly well known as having a corrupted law and justice system where money can in part purchase your freedom (the amount of freedom depending on how bad the crime and how much money you are willing to hand over and of course how public the issue is).

    Still, whilst no one wins in this sad situation it should be noted that the testimony of Chan especially has been a great encouragement to many of us who will face death at some point or another in the future.

  • Mainstream media firmly pushing, Tony Abbot withdrawing the ambassador, over what? criminal sentencing. Its obvious that there is political maneuvering gone on and this issue has been chosen to showcase it. We may never know what it is about, but we know it has nothing to do with this issue?

  • “They really do believe they are morally superior on this issue, and they are actually taking God to task for even daring to have initiated the death penalty. What a shocking thing to insinuate: that God is wrong about this and that we creatures can do a better job of running the universe”.

    Great article Bill, but perhaps, through ignorance, the above is not quite true.

    If they come from churches that “preach” that God loves people and wants to get to know them better (as opposed to God loves people but as sinners they are under His wrath until they repent and are born again and repent [intentional repetition to cover both sides of that debate :-)]) they may never have been taught much about what God is fully like and how He has given society the DP as a means of removing evil from amongst us.

    A friend, a saint, went to heaven this week as the result of cancer. It would seem to me that the world lost a lot more there than through the death of two drug dealers but where does the world’s sympathies lie?

    I wonder sometimes if people are so full on for given such people “mercy” because they know inside how much they need mercy?

  • Adrian,

    Up to a point I agree with you about inadequate and false teaching. And I understand that teachers and leaders will be held accountable more strictly for what they teach their flocks.

    But we are all responsible for our own study and knowledge of the Word, so what we believe (and say as a result) is really our own.

    Ultimately, when God calls us to account, we won’t be able to say: “But, but that teacher led me astray…”, will we?

  • Hyprocrite:
    Thinks death penalty for serious crime is cruel injustice.
    Totally okay with murdering children in the womb, the elderly, the sick and disabled, especially those with Down Syndrome.
    Only uses term “state sanctioned murder” in connection with the former. Uses “freedom of choice” to describe the latter.

  • Yes exactly right Simon.

  • Agree John.

  • I long for this insightful, balanced article be put in the mainstream newspapers in Australia and around the world for the public to read so that people’s eyes will be opened to the truth. Thank you Bill. The Lord be with you and bless you!

  • ‘I have lost count of how many times I have seen and heard ‘Christians’ say that the death penalty is barbaric, inhumane, terrible, awful, and should have no place in any society, etc. They claim it is evil and must be done away with altogether. Um, so what these folks are really saying is this: ‘I am far more merciful, fair and compassionate than God is.’’

    No, they interpret Christ’s words in the Beatitudes a bit differently to some others. I am fully aware that God used the death penalty in the Old Testament and fully aware of the justice and judgement in his character. However, I think that Christ gave us a different view or a new way in the New Testament, which affects how many of us see things like the death penalty. There is no hypocrisy.

  • Thanks Ann. But seeking to pit Jesus of the New Testament against God of the Old Testament is the stuff of theological liberalism, not biblical Christianity. There is absolutely no change in the character of God in the two Testaments – none whatsoever. He remains eternally the same throughout. Those who have actually read all of Scripture will know that God is fully merciful and compassionate in the OT, and Jesus is fully a God of justice and judgment in the NT. It is impossible to read Scripture otherwise. But I deal with this in much more detail elsewhere, eg.: billmuehlenberg.com/2012/02/27/modern-day-marcionism/

    And of course there is absolutely no change in the death penalty in the NT. Jesus fully supported it, as did Paul. But I speak to this more fully here: billmuehlenberg.com/2015/02/14/christians-crime-and-the-death-penalty/

    And here: billmuehlenberg.com/2007/10/12/on-capital-punishment-part-2/

    When theological liberals seek to make this foolish case that God has somehow “evolved’ and changed, they are not at all staying true to the Bible, but are indeed engaging in the height of hypocrisy. Indeed, this is an ancient heresy condemned by the early church. Look up Marcion for starters.

    Finally, there is more to the NT than Matthew 5-7 of course. If we want to properly represent Jesus, we must consider all of Scripture. Try reading Revelation for example if you think that Jesus is not a holy God coming to judge with fierce justice. See more on this here: billmuehlenberg.com/2011/03/06/the-wrath-of-god/

  • When theological liberals seek to make this foolish case that God has somehow “evolved’ and changed, they are not at all staying true to the Bible So very very true.

    but are indeed engaging in the height of hypocrisy Presuming they understand what God is really like. They might (although without excuse) be speaking in ignorance.

  • I am afraid I have to agree with you in full Bill, otherwise I would be a hypocrite myself. I happen to fully agree with the death penalty in appropriate cases and this is one of them. When they carried out their deed they were fully aware of the consequences and the Death Penalty in Indonesia when they attempted to smuggle in 9kg of drugs each. 9kg is no small measure and had the capacity to kill literally thousands of people once it was cut up and distributed, but nobody says anything about that as with some Christian folk that is only a small issue. I happen to totally agree with the Indonesian Government on this drugs law issue. Like you Bill, I will probably be called a heretic and these same folk as you quaintly call them will be wanting to burn us at the stake just because we happen to agree with God on this issue. These People talk about Mercy and disregard Justice.
    Leigh D Stebbins

  • Hi Bill,

    Although the DP did have its use on the old days, I think it may be better to lock up violent criminals in solitary cells for the rest of their lives. Why? In the hope to have them repent, confess their sins, and Ask Jesus to save them, His Grace. My belief is that sometimes, it can take a very long time for a person to repent. Also the DP was used for many crimes during the OT times.

    At the same time, I staunchly oppose abortion and all other death cultural lifestyles, always did, as I see that also as murder. I oppose all crime and sin including marriage equality. I can clearly see that it is very unhealthy and a bad death is the result in the end because of STD’s..

    I do not profess I am perfect in the sense of being free from flaws, oh yes I am a great sinner, one seeking the Grace of God.

    However, out of love, we are encouraged to admonish fellow sinners.

    Erik

  • Thanks Erik. But this is a commonly offered objection which really has no biblical merit whatsoever. The idea that we should never do anything to cut a person’s life short so that he might have more chances to hear the gospel is rather silly when you think about it for a minute. If this were true, you then would have to argue that God is immoral for allowing us all to die so relatively young. Why does he not allow us all to live to be 500 or 1000? After all, we would then have even more chances to repent. Sorry, this is the thinking of secular humanism, not biblical Christianity. As I have written elsewhere:

    Justice, it seems for these folks, is to allow any and every evil to take place, because some of these evil doers might eventually see the light. So the bad guys here were clearly the Allies who sought to stop Hitler and liberate Europe. They were obviously frustrating God’s intent to save Hitler and all the other malicious Nazi thugs.
    I was even asked by one of these pacifists, “who are you to decide that bin Laden had had enough of a chance to repent?” I replied: I am not in a position to decide anything along these lines. Only God is. He alone knows when a person has had enough opportunity to know of him, repent, and be saved.
    But he appoints the times and seasons of men. He gives life and he takes it away. And part of the way that he governs in this fallen world is to declare that those who forfeit their right to life shall in fact lose it. He instituted the death penalty and the use of the sword for this very reason.
    When God ordained – with full justice and righteousness – the death penalty for murder, he had every right to do so. If people think God is immoral for doing so, they really need to deal with God about this. What they are really doing is putting God in the dock and saying they are in a far better position than him to run the universe, and to make moral judgments.

    billmuehlenberg.com/2011/05/04/the-death-penalty-justice-and-the-gospel/

  • I disagree with the death penalty. I disagree with it because that is my conviction. It is my right to have that conviction. I will never trawl through scripture to seek justification for that conviction. If the state imposes the death penalty, then it kills people in my name, and as a citizen, I don’t want to be a party to that. If you are so fired-up about putting criminals to death, Bill, seek out the crooks and put a 9mm slug into their heads yourself. Because, I think it’s easy to be an advocate of state-sanctioned killing as long as someone else does the executing.

  • Thanks Howard. But all you are really telling us here is this: ‘I disagree with it because my feelings tell me so. It is my right to have those feelings.’ Yes, you are certainly entitled to have all the feelings you want. But so what? Since when does someone who claims to be a Christian run his life on mere feelings? Since when is truth and falsehood based on emotional reactions?

    And if you think I misrepresent you here, I have of course done nothing of the sort. Out of your own mouth you say, “I will never trawl through scripture to seek justification for that conviction.” That tells me perfectly clearly that your deeply held feelings are the final arbiter of right and wron, truth and error. You will not even consider what the Word of God clearly teaches on this matter because your feelings are all that matters here. What a dangerous place for anyone to be in who claims to be a Christian. Sorry, I will continue to base all my thinking on infallible Scripture, not on fallible feelings and convictions.

    And of course it is entirely easy to “be an advocate of state sanctioned killing” for the simple and correct reason that God has commanded it. And of course I will not pull the trigger because I am not commanded to so by God. God has clearly ordained the state to do this, so those in this God-appointed position have the complete moral authority to do so. Once again, I will side with God here, and not rely on emotional kneejerk reactions.

  • And part of the way that (God) governs in this fallen world is to declare that those who forfeit their right to life shall in fact lose it. He instituted the death penalty and the use of the sword for this very reason.

    When God ordained – with full justice and righteousness – the death penalty for murder, he had every right to do so.

    There it is.

    And our responsibility is to obey our Lord and Saviour knowing that what He tells us to do is Holy and Righteous and Just and the right thing to do and to disobey is sin.

  • Some believe that no human should kill anyone.
    Some believe in killing the innocent and sparing the guilty.
    Some believe in killing the guilty and sparing the innocent (such as unborn babies).
    One of those three is absolutely absurd, and one implies a false sense of pacifism.

  • Hi Bill. Greetings in the name of JESUS

    Good article Bill. GOD said it and that settles it.
    May you continue to be a watcher on the wall.

    GOD Bless your ministry.

  • A good article Bill. I had a mind to write to the Indonesian Embassy here in New Zealand encouraging them to ask Australia if it were willing to return Indonesian women who were seeking an abortion back to them, because abortion is in general not allowed in their nation and that it is morally close to the number one issue facing everyone.

    The main point I am making is that it is wrong to kill an innocent baby and the subtext is that Australia* needs to consider its position in the way it is representing itself and how that perceived in Indonesia.

    I can just see the apoplectic explosions from the media…

    *by this I mean the Government’s public position, not Australians per se.

  • Hi Bill. Again thank you so much for your articles and in particular on this topic. On the whole I agree with what you have said. I firmly believe that some people through their behaviour forfeit their life. Yet, I have some misgivings with the death penalty, and that is the human failures of the justice system at times. I have read some years ago (sorry I can’t remember where and when) that in the USA since its independence on average one person per year was executed who was later discovered to have been innocent.
    If we in Australia had the death penalty e.g. Lindy Chamberlin would have probably been executed as well as a few others with a life sentence who later proved to be innocent.

  • The DP was not just for murder. It was also for rape(adultery), kidnapping, sodomy, blasphemy to the Lord and to parents, beastology, and a number of other crimes. This is the issue that I am grappling with in scripture.

  • Thanks Erik. But you are missing the point here. No one is arguing that the civil laws for Israel are to be dragged over into our societies today. Modern states will determine which crimes if any might merit the DP. All we are saying is that the DP is ordained by God, and was instituted by him well before the Mosaic law.

  • You are welcome Bill. Yes, I do agree that the DP is ordained by the Lord, well before mosaic times. Likewise thank you, Bill.

  • I wonder if the parents of those two are asking themselves ‘what did we do wrong?’ Well may they ask….

  • Erik/Bill,
    In the hope to have them repent, confess their sins, and Ask Jesus to save them, His Grace. My belief is that sometimes, it can take a very long time for a person to repent.

    Yes, it can take a person a long time to repent and (as illustrated by the thief on the cross) it can happen at the last moment.

    But the DP being a problem here only affects those not of Reformed Theology. The Reformed understanding of things is that God chooses to save people and having already determined their time of death will (if He wishes) save them before they die.

    So being of Reformed Theology I can sanction a state implemented DP (provided it lines up with God’s word) and I don’t have to take on the “but what if they would have repented the next day …” worry as God’s already taken all those things into account.

  • God is sovereign and governs this world from His heavenly throne and we tend to forget that bit! If He has ordained salvation in Christ from before the beginning of the world then the time of repentance of each is in His hands and no life is cut short too soon for He has numbered all our days.

    Adrian, I totally agree with your last comment.

    Also, in my one and only church many had not read the OT because to them it contains a different God to Jesus and God is love not hate, how can we stand firm when we don’t know what God likes and doesn’t? The Lord Himself said He does not change and that we think He is like us when He isn’t.

  • “modern states will determine which crime if any merit the dp” Boy, that is a hard one, you are probably right there, for God’s gifts are without repentance, just like he has given the responsibility and privilege of raising children including corporal punishment to parents regardless if they misuse or abuse it. In our effort to protect children we may not take that privilege away from parents, but we must attempt to educate them in the biblically correct use of it, provided they are prepared to listen of course. But I would prefer and do advocate that we base our judgments including dp on biblically just process including truthful and fully proven guilt etc., especially in Australia whose laws were already based on biblical principles. Lots of food for thought. Thanks Bill
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

  • In regards to my last comment another question has arisen in my mind. In the case of abuse of privilege in a family situation the state or hopefully the church will step in when corporal punishment is abused and results in a criminal offence e.g. child abuse etc. How does that relate on a larger scale to abuse of privilege by a sovereign state? Can we make a biblical case for a layer of corrective influence by international bodies such as the UN or is there no room for that meaning that the edges of state sovereignty immediately answer to god’s sovereignty alone. Trade and aid sanctions have been imposed as a means of expressing disapproval by other nations and I have not yet heard of arguments of biblical disapproval of this. As always, I guess it is a matter of determining which response is justified and right in which situation based on as factual and truthful an assessment of it as is humanly possible.
    Like to hear your thoughts on this though, thanks Bill.
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

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