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This week’s episode of Mercy Street had a great line (I thought): “No good ever came from doing what we have to.”  Why is that important (to me)?

  1. If someone tells us what to do, are we really free to do what we want?
  2. If we only do what we are told, how do we know what is truly good?
  3. Who decides what is good?

Now, I know what you may be thinking, didn’t Jesus tell us to do good?  Doesn’t the Bible enumerate ways to do and be good?  Of course.  But, that is an inspired source.  Not that people can’t be inspired, they most definitely can be.  However, I just find that mandating goodness leads to indifference.

For example, when the government decided that slavery was immoral, they banned it.  Many states felt that the government had overstepped its power and seceded from the Union.  Does that make slavery any less wrong?

Taking away states rights became the issue, not the morality of slavery.  People let themselves be blinded to the injustice staring them in the face every day.

We are not immune to this today.  We want to help the less fortunate, but perhaps don’t know how or where to start.  That’s not a bad thing.  Taking the first step is often the hardest.  But, we cannot allow ourselves to confuse freely giving goodness with mandated giving goodness.  Lest we let ourselves become blind to oppression.

When we believe that someone else will do the work for us, we happily allow them to.  That’s just human nature.  We must consciously make the effort to do good and be good without the government anyone forcing us to.

At the end of our lives, God will still judge us on what we did with our free will.  And I am left wondering what will happen if we allow ourselves to give away this gift that God has given us simply because someone claimed they would do good on the behalf of all of us.

What have we done?  If we let someone do good for us, how have we done good?


Mercy Street takes place during the American Civil War in Alexandria. VA.  Catch the show on your local PBS station.

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