(no tear sheet)
Len from Calgary calls a radio talk show expressing that legislature can control gangs. The host tells him, “Get real. Read a couple of books or something.”
The government usually gets blamed for increased crime rates. “If the police or the politicians would do something, we would have safer streets and less crime” or “If laws were tougher and punishments more effective, fewer people would do wrong.”
Is that true? An Ottawa newspaper editor writes, “If you take a business or political story and report deeply enough, you will find people struggling with issues of faith and values. . . . for too long Canadians have looked to government to fix their problems. We are entering an era now where people are realizing that morality lies in the individual.”
To put it more simply, morality is not legislated. We try. Our law says stealing and murder are wrong; our police officers catch offenders and courts prosecute them; yet despite law and consequences, people still make illegal and immoral choices.
Using rules to force a person to be moral is about like moving a stubborn mule. Tug, yank, yell, make threats, but the mule will not budge. Crack a whip over its head and the mule might give a little, but it is still a mule and being ornery is part of its nature.
Having a whip cracked over our heads has about the same effect. If pain is involved, we might move but threats or rules do not change our inner attitudes. Those predisposed to speed will drive fast despite posted limits. Those who crave power and position will grab it no matter who says they should not.
Getting started in crime brings initial conscience pangs; however, with power and money flowing in, criminals become obsessed with profits, not repentance. They think money will buy all they want or need, and before long they do not care what they have to do to get it.
The Bible ascribes crime and other immoral behaviors to our sin nature. It defines sin as going our own way rather than allowing God to govern our lives. Sin means inner desires are more important than right living. Those desires eventually become mighty tyrants.
Of course, criminals are not the only ones who struggle with immoral and unethical desires. My selfishness can override social or personal constraints, even override God’s desires for me. Also, I know tougher constraints will not stop me. Unless I rely on God’s offer to stop my selfish behavior at its roots and control my life, I will sin.
This change at the level of our “want to’s” is something no government can do. The Roman Emperor Constantine had a supposed encounter with God, then made a law requiring everyone to become a Christian. He failed to realize that righteousness is not an external matter. No one can renew the human spirit by law. No one can pass laws that make people moral. Who is going to believe in God simply because someone says they must?
Even the universal moral law of God cannot change people. The Bible says those laws are valid but makes it clear that we fall short. Not one person obeys them completely. Even if we did, it would not make us Christians. We are “saved by grace thorough faith — and this is not from ourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works (our actions) lest anyone should boast.”
God’s rules show us what He expects but our behavior does not change unless God makes us new people from the inside out. He must take the helm of our life and renew our core beliefs. Then our outward actions change because He gives us a new inner motivation plus the power of His Spirit to do as He says.
Making laws reflects our understanding that God wants us to live morally, yet morality does not reside in law but in the individual. The grace to live it comes from God.