Monday, December 31, 2012

Laws, Laws, Laws


After returning to the United States from many years in India I’ve noticed some changes. One was an increase in the number of laws and rules. Recently, a lawyer friend said, “You get new officials elected, and they feel they have to do something. So they make new laws. Then another group comes in, and they make more laws. We’re getting really technical.”

With the passing of each law we lose a little bit of our freedom. We become more “technical.”

By law, in Pennsylvania, I must stop for a pedestrian at a crosswalk. Good law, right? Absolutely.  But for me, I feel stripped of the opportunity to do the right thing. Now there is no virtue in stopping. It’s the law. I’m penalized if I don’t stop. My freedom to choose to do right is now legislated.

I’m not against the law or authority. We need laws. I happily stop at crosswalks. But more laws = less freedom and less personal responsibility. Nearly everything in life is governed by rules, policies, regulations, and conventions. It's the fabric of reality.

There are traffic laws. Mathematical laws. Natural laws. Football and basketball have rules. Mom and dad usually had some do’s and don’t’s. The state tells you what to do. The Federal government has laws. The TSA officials have rules. Nightclubs have rules. Restaurants are regulated and their employees have procedures. Banks have rules. There are patent laws, visa rules, and unspoken social taboos. Prisons have rules. Schools have rules. Universities have rules. Congress has rules. Judges have rules. The military, ditto. Even gangs have rules.

Some sort of “rule of order” seems to be constant.

Why?

Certainly the need for order is part of it. In society with billions of free-willed people, there has to be some agreement on what is acceptable and what is not. Even natural laws like gravity bring security to us. I can count on gravity, the freezing point of water, etc. If you try to break these, they break you. Do laws create security in us?

What’s behind it all? The Bible tells of God initiating a law to Adam and Eve. “… of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat…”[1] That was quite possibly the first law. It forced a response by the first couple. That's what laws do. 

I suggest God is the Basis of law, both moral and natural. He had no source, outside Himself, to refer to in giving the law. His Law is based on His own character. Has he placed that in our being too? Thousands of years later David said, “Thy Law is within my heart”[2]

Can it be that the inevitability of rules demonstrate God's character and our likeness to Him?






[1] Genesis 2:17
[2] Psalm 40:8

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Who Makes the Rules Around Here?


The Apostle Paul wrote to Christians, “let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.”(1)

Paul is talking about a “rule” that Christians are to live by. For Christians, there is a “rule” of life or a standard. Not everyone likes the Christian standard. But we do have a standard. 

Having a standard does some cool things. For one, it judges our behavior. Can you imagine the injuries if there was no pass interference rule in the NFL? Receivers would be helpless. Secondly, a common set of rules brings a kind of general agreement about how we should live. Generally everyone agrees murder is not acceptable. Thirdly, acceptance of a standard means recognition of some kind of authority, such as the NFL or the American judicial system.

Some say Christians can’t even agree as to what their standard is. Probably true, to some extent. But in the wider society of all types of people, the divergence of standard is far greater.

Christians often get accused of trying to force our standard on everyone. Again, true in some cases. This is rooted in a Christian’s belief that our standard is the best one. Remember the hullabaloo over the replacement NFL officials earlier this season? Most everyone agreed the authority of the old, experienced officials was best.

What hurts my claim that our Christian standard is the best is when we Christians talk but don’t live up to it. Sadly, I’ve done that at times. Not good.

As I said, everyone has a standard. The thief has a standard, the Muslim has a standard, Christians have a standard. They differ and this causes friction in society. Since each standard implies recognition of some kind of authority, the issue goes to those authorities or worldviews. We march to different drummers. The gay activist and the evangelical Christian have different standards under different authorities. The issue is who or what is the standard setter? Is it the Bible? The Quran? My self? Popular opinion? Tribal traditions? A supreme court justice?

My point is everyone has a standard. It’s interesting. No one lives without some set of rules or guidelines, determined by some authority.



What we see in real life lines up with the biblical account of origins. The Bible says God made us and established the first standard when He told Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God was the authority. It was up to the first couple as to whose authority they would recognize.

Have you asked yourself, “Who makes the rules around here?”





(1) - Philippians 3:16 (New American Standard Bible)

Quotes of Note ... The Invisible World

“Spiritual warfare is learning to recognize the strategies, refusing to cooperate with them, and aggressively cutting off the schemes of the devil in Jesus’ name.” Dean Sherman

“those who protest that God cannot exist because there is too much evil evident in life… Evil exists; therefore, the Creator does not. That is categorically stated… If evil exists, one must assume that good exists in order to know the difference. If good exists, one must assume that a moral law exists by which to measure good and evil. But if a moral law exists, must not one posit an ultimate source of moral law, or at least an objective basis for a moral law? By an objective basis, I mean something that is transcendingly true at all times, regardless of whether I believed it or not.” Ravi Zacharias

“But the Devil is no big threat to God’s purposes; he is not even remotely comparable in power. He has been given a limited time before his final judgment to try to prove his case, just as all other moral beings who have chosen to live in rebellion against heaven.” W.A. Pratney

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I've served as a life-long missionary in Samoa, the Pacific region, India, and now in Pennsylvania. The Christian faith is reasonable and works in real life. It is true to the facts. Hope you enjoy some of the thoughts. I appreciate feedback.

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