Did Jesus put compassion ahead of righteousness?

Someone argued recently that Jesus would have approved of gay marriage because he put “compassion for people ahead of adherence to religious dogma.” This is just a quick rebuttal to that argument, which I plan to elaborate on in a subsequent post.

When people say things like that, I can’t help wondering whether they’ve read the whole New Testament or only certain parts. Jesus may have put compassion ahead of religious dogma, but not ahead of righteousness:

“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Mt. 5:20

He lists adultery and other sexual immorality along with murder and theft as things that make a man unrighteous:

“And he said, ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.'” Mk. 7:20-23

He ate and drank with sinners, but for the sake of bringing them to repentance:

“And the Pharisees and their scribes murmured against his disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’ And Jesus answered them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’” Lk. 5:30-32

He taught that it’s better to pluck your eye out than to let it cause you to sin, since sin sends you to hell:

“’And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.”’” Mk. 9:43-48

Of course Jesus was compassionate and merciful. Otherwise he would not have been incarnated, healed the sick and the lame, and suffered and died on the Cross. But all of this was for the purpose of calling sinners to repentance, as he makes abundantly and repeatedly clear.

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