There should be a law about that!
Something bad happens- someone is hurt, has a loss, or is offended. The first reaction, in our times, often is, “There should be a law against that” or (worse) “government needs to do something.” Not always. Be skeptical when you are told that a new law is needed. Why?
First, not every problem is political. Most problems have a moral root and are best addressed by parents, teachers, pastors, etc. Examples include sexual sins, greed, covetousness, hate, racism, drugs/alcohol abuse. Not all sins are crimes and not all crimes are sins. It is not a sin to fail to stop at a stop sign. It is a civil offense because of traffic laws that maintain order on highways and roads. It is not a crime to lust, but it most certainly is a serious sin (Matthew 5). To act on lust, and commit adultery, rape, or produce pornography is a crime. As a society, we need to very careful about elevating what the Bible calls sin to the level of a crime. Making some crimes “hate crimes” is a slippery slope indeed.
Many problems are issues of the heart. Fornication, idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies (Galatians 5:19-21) are heart matters, and need to be dealt with differently than civil crimes. God has jurisdiction over the heart, while man has jurisdiction over actions, especially ones that violate the life, liberty or property of fellow man. Therefore God judges lust but societies have laws against adultery; God judges hatefulness but man has laws against acts to harm someone you don’t like; God judges selfishness and envy but man punishes theft of any kind; God judges drunkenness but we have laws against drunk driving or public drunkenness.
Be careful- every insult, hurt or offense does not constitute a crime and call for direct repercussions. Sometimes we need to turn the other cheek. Can you conceive of a society where every wrong is met with a penalty? This is not remotely advocated by the Bible! Even the Creator of the Universe does not punish every sinful act with an immediate consequence. Jesus suffered much at the hands of sinful man while not protesting, and praying for those who treated him so unjustly.
Secondly, civil government does not have unlimited jurisdiction. Render to civil government authority to punish evildoers and ensure justice but render unto other spheres of authority (individual, family, church, voluntary associations) authority to carry out their proper responsibilities as well. Remember every power ceded to civil government through a new law is necessarily a power that will no longer be exercised by one of the other spheres of authority. God’s order is for limited, decentralized civil government.
We need to ask, is this problem an issue of internal self-government or external civil government. If a man will not be governed by the Ten Commandments, he will be governed by ten thousand commandments (G.K. Chesterton). God originally had only one law (Genesis 2:17). Then through Moses, He gave ten laws (Exodus 20). To the nation of Israel, He gave 613 laws. Civil penalties were limited to a relatively few actions. Most of life was under self-government, family government, business government and religious government. By way of contrast, our nation has a virtually unlimited number of laws, growing as we speak. In 2010 over 40,000 federal laws were added, not counting state and local laws. How many laws are there in the United States? So many, that no knows! In 1982 the Justice Department tried to determine the total number of criminal laws. In two years, Ronald Gainor, former Justice Department official, gave up, stating, “you will have died and been resurrected three times” and not have an answer to this question. These do not include the “crime” of not heeding a federal regulation, of which there are hundreds of thousands.
Of great importance in this discussion is the fact that every law restricts liberty. Every law proclaims, “You must do this or you cannot do that.” When considering the merits of creating a new law, consider that there needs to be a benefit that is greater than the cost of the lost liberty. Our liberty is under assault. Americans need to once again fight to preserve liberty and perhaps that means repealing many unbiblical laws rather than creating new ones.
Let me offer the Bible’s alternative to more laws: more Christian self-government, which stems from a relationship with the Supreme Judge of the world-Jesus Christ.