Mercy, Not Sacrifice

"Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do" (Matt 9:12).

One of the more astonishing and troubling aspects of the political debate over healthcare is the apparent lack of empathy some lawmakers show for those who are sick. People who are themselves healthy or who have no family members in need of medical care should not be in charge of creating healthcare programs. Only those who can ask, "How would this program affect me or my wife or my child if they are seriously ill?" should be designing the kind of coverage all people want for themselves and their loved ones.

Jesus uses the analogy of sinners as sick people to argue that they are the ones who need attention, not the righteous. This is why he is seeking out and sharing table with tax collectors and prostitutes. God wants mercy, not judgment or sacrifice.  

How easy it is for people who have never made a mistake or committed a sin (they think) to pass judgment on others. Compassion is born of the common experience of failure or a foolish decision that hurt others. The Pharisees saw themselves as models of righteousness, which gave them the right to condemn others.  

They could not imagine associating with public sinners as Jesus was doing. It would contaminate them and damage their reputations. But this attitude also limited their freedom to reach out people in need  or to show compassion for those in trouble. They might be doctors of the Law, but they could never be physicians to those in moral suffering and confusion. Jesus prods these righteous teachers with the words of the Prophet Hosea: "I desire mercy, not sacrifice."