Law…hunh…what is it good for?

Law…hunh…what is it good for?

Jul 30
Law…hunh…what is it good for?

When someone says they want to make something illegal or that there should be a law against something, what they usually mean is that they wish people wouldn’t engage in that behavior.  For example, the city where I live passed a law that forbids people from smoking in public buildings.  I’m sure that what people intended to say with the law was “we don’t want you to smoke in places where it’s difficult to get away from it.”  In actuality, intended or otherwise, when we pass a law what we are actually saying is “if you do this, you should be punished.”

I doubt that there has ever been a law in the course of human history that truly changed a person’s behavior.  The smoking ban didn’t stop anyone from smoking — they just smoke outside, in their cars, or in their homes.  However, what it communicates loudly and clearly is “that type of behavior is considered unacceptable and will be punished.”  The city of New York has made it illegal to sell soft drinks larger than 20 oz.  I don’t for a minute think that has led anyone to consume fewer sugary drinks in New York.  All it has done is allow the city to punish vendors who do not comply.  Instead of buying a 64 oz. Coca Cola, they now have to buy three 20 oz. bottles, or maybe even a 2 liter.

Do you think people should be punished for drinking too much cola?  Or that vendors should be punished for selling large cups of it?

What about one of the biggest legal blunders of all time — Prohibition.  We didn’t just pass a law — we amended the Constitution to make it illegal to sell alcohol.  I haven’t researched the reasoning behind it, but I suspect it had something to do with eliminating drunkenness.  It might have even had a Christian backing, since drunkenness is considered a sin.  Could someone seriously have thought that by outlawing alcohol it would reduce sin?  I can hear the argument now…”allowing the sale of alcohol is the same as tolerating or even condoning the sin.”  So we made it illegal, because we thought it would stop drinking and maybe even curb some sin in the world.  Instead it led to one of the most violent periods in American history and some of the most notorious criminals.  Did anyone stop drinking?  Maybe.  Thankfully we eventually realized that we couldn’t force anyone to do or not do anything by passing a law or even by amending the Constitution.

Laws do not change behavior.  They merely allow us to punish the offenders.  When you say that we should pass a law against something, you probably intend for it to stop people from behaving a certain way or to start behaving a certain way.  It won’t happen.  What you’re really saying is “people who do that should be punished.”

  • “People who smoke where I can breathe it should be punished.”
  • “People who drive too fast should be punished.”
  • “People with too much money should be punished.”
  • “Homosexuals who get married should be punished.”
  • “People who have unprotected sex, get pregnant, and terminate the pregnancy should be punished.”

You might agree with some or all of those statements.  You certainly have that right — our laws do not punish you for your opinions.  Yet.

American politics being what they are, all it takes is for a simple majority — just over half — to agree on something in order to impose their will upon everyone.  There are more non-smokers in my city than smokers.  Or at least there are more voting non-smokers than there are voting smokers.  What if there were more homosexuals than heterosexuals?  What rules could they use the government to impose upon the heterosexuals?  Could they forbid them to marry?

What if there were more atheists in American than there were Christians?  Could they make it illegal for us to practice our religion?  Could they eliminate religions holidays?  Ban the sale of religious texts?  Strike the name of God from every public record, building, document, etc.?

If enough like-minded people got together and agreed, they could force their will upon you.  They could tell you how you could or couldn’t raise your children.  They could tell you whether or not you were allowed to have children.  They could dictate how much you pay in taxes, what property you could own, where you could live, what kind of house you could have, what kind of car you can drive, how many and what kind of pets you can own, what you can sell, where you can work, where you can live, whether or not you can move, what you can eat, how much energy you can consume…

Surely you get the idea.  Personally, I don’t want a country where I’m forced to behave the way the majority says I have to behave.  You may think you do, but I guarantee that will end when you are no longer in the majority.  Unfortunately, that just seems to make people want to be the majority even more.  Kinda like when we were kids and we all wanted to “be the boss” of someone.

In the teachings of Jesus, I’ve never seen anywhere that He taught us to pass more laws or to force people to behave a certain way.  He didn’t say, “Blessed are you who force righteousness upon others.”  He didn’t say, “Blessed are you who punish those who sin.”  He didn’t say, “Blessed are you who take from the rich and give to the poor.”  He didn’t say, “Blessed are you who force a woman to give birth against her will.”

Jesus did teach the right ways to behave, but that wasn’t His focus.  That wasn’t His purpose.  The first thing Jesus did was gather a small group of men and show them how it feels to belong and to be loved.  Then He taught them what to believe and grew their faith.  Then and only then did He ask them to behave.  If Jesus required us to behave properly before we could believe or belong, none of us would ever belong.  Ever.  He modeled the order for us:  belong, believe, behave.  Unfortunately, many Christians reverse the order and require people to behave first.

And if you don’t behave, we’ll try to pass a law that forces you to.

Because that’s what Jesus would do.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”  He said, “Blessed are the meek.”  He said, “Blessed are the merciful.”  He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”  He went on to say that He did not come to abolish the Law.  He didn’t add to it, either.  He didn’t bring new laws and commands.  Instead He taught the reason and the purpose behind the commands.  He sought relationship first and correction second.

Don’t get me wrong…the things mentioned above:  homosexuality, abortion, greed, drunkenness, etc. are all sins.  All of them miss the mark.  All of them fall short of the glory of God.  All of them require punishment.

And every single one of them has already been punished.  Perfectly punished.  Once and for all time.

What more needs to be done?  Was Jesus not beaten enough?  Was He not humiliated enough?  Did He not die enough or harshly enough?

Or perhaps you consider His sacrifice to only be for those who “behave.”

You want to change the world?  Lift up Jesus.  You want to stop abortions?  Lift up Jesus instead of a law.  You want to stop school shootings?  Lift up Jesus instead of a law.  You want to end poverty?  Lift up Jesus instead of a law.

Teach Jesus instead of more government.  Show Jesus to people and He will change their hearts and their behavior.

In other words, only by knowing Jesus will people begin to behave the way you say you want.  Nothing else will work.  It’s all been tried before.

The way to a perfect world lies through Jesus.

And yet I hear Christians talk more about law and politics than they do about their Savior.  We lift up law before we lift up Christ.  We promote a President over the Prince of Peace.  We promote political ideology over theology.  We are quicker to condemn than we are to offer mercy, quicker to judge than to sacrifice.

If we say we want government, then we’ll get government.  If we say we want Jesus, then we’ll get Jesus.

In the end, we get exactly the world we say we want.

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