Righteous Laws Do Not Make a Nation Righteous

For many weeks this post has been on my mind.  I have hesitated in writing it because the last thing I want is to offend anyone or cause more divisiveness than we already have in our nation.

But as the past few days have become so bad with clashes between different factions in our nation, I feel I must share what is in my heart.

First, a disclaimer here:  I am not pro-Trump or never-Trump.  I am not here to promote any political party.  I am also not here to even promote the Christian faith.  If you are Muslim, Jewish or atheist I am not speaking to you.  My words are to those who, like me, call themselves Christian.

When Trump ran for president he was strongly embraced by many in the evangelical world.  One of the main reasons for their support was that Trump promised to promote Christian principles and appoint judges who would rule in favor of the Christian agenda.

I am not saying promoting Christian principles is a bad thing.  As a Christian who has been a Christ follower all my life, I long to see Christian principles be a strong part of the fabric of our nation.  I truly believe the Bible’s statement that “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD.”

But my fear then – and my fear now – is that we are looking to a man and/or a political party to promote the Christian faith rather than looking to God for that.

As Christians we can work to see “righteous” laws that agree with God’s Word are made by Congress, signed by the President and upheld by the courts.  Nothing wrong with that.

But laws do not make a person or a nation righteous.

God’s Word and the whole idea of our Christian faith speaks against that.

Look at the nation of Israel in the Old Testament.  Led by Moses out of Egypt bondage, God Himself gave them laws.  If you read the Old Testament you see how many times they failed to follow those laws.  Why?  Because as God’s Word says “For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.

The story of the Christian faith is that laws did not work.  They could control the behavior of man to a point, but in the end, they always failed.  Man always found a way to ignore and/or disobey the law.  The nation of Israel wandered further and further away from the law because the law did not change their hearts.

So we can pass laws that make what we believe is sin against the law.  We can even persecute those who break those laws and send them to prison.  But how has that make our nation a Christian nation?  Granted it would mean that we as Christians might feel safer in a nation where everybody had to agree with us or go to jail.  We as Christians might enjoy a great safe and comfortable life.

But how would that change the hearts of the people?  How would that truly make us “all” Christians?

Jesus spoke about the importance of a change in our hearts, not just our behavior in that famous passage we call the “Sermon on the Mount”

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’  But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

So – we can make laws against murder (not saying we should not do so) but we cannot change the hearts of people who harbor anger in their heart.  And sadly, I have seen on numerous Facebook posts where Christians have been so guilty of disobeying Jesus’ instruction as they begin to call each other “fools” when they disagree on an issue.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Clearly Jesus was calling us to a higher standard than just setting up a set of laws for all to obey.  He was calling us to a change in heart.

Only God can change a heart.  All the “righteous” laws in the world, even if enforced by our courts, cannot change the heart of men and women.

My fear is that instead of trying to share God’s love and God’s truth to our neighbors, instead of reaching out to those who were planning an abortion, who were taking illegal drugs, who were living a lifestyle we felt was wrong, we looked to a man/a political party to pass laws that would stop them from that lifestyle or punish them for it.

What if we went to that woman contemplating abortion and asked what we could do to help her keep the child?  Could we pay her medical bills?  Could we help her find a good family to adopt the baby?  Could we help her gain skills to get a better job?  And, if in the end, we could not change her mind, could we show her love and compassion as we pray to God to change her heart and mind?

And what about Jesus’s statement:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’  But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.  And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.  If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.”

I am thankful that I have lived my life in a nation where many Christian beliefs have guided our country – and I’m all for promoting those principles.  But we must never think if we force people to live by our Christian standards through fear of persecution or punishment by the courts, we are making our nation a righteous nation.

No law – no matter how good – can change the heart.  That is the whole point of our Christian faith.

Just a closing thought:  what if we spend as much time praying – seeking God – sharing His love to those we do not agree with – as we spend arguing, debating and even attacking those who are opposed to our Christian standards – would that make a real difference?

Stand Firm – Love Well

My church has been doing a sermon series on the book of Daniel.  At first glance you might wonder how a book written thousands of years ago has any relevance to today.  As I listened to the messages each week I found it clearly spoke to our current culture today.

As a Christ follower I often find myself in total disagreement with the values all around me.  Much of society speaks and acts in ways so opposed to the words of Jesus Christ.  Everywhere I look – entertainment, fashion and especially politics I find much to disagree with and can often find myself feeling overwhelmed.

How should I respond to my culture when I am so many times in disagreement with it?

Probably each generation thinks they are the first ones to face this perplexing situation – when our own values and lifestyle seem so different from the lifestyles about us.

But we are not the first.

Looking at Daniel we see a young man taken by force from his own home and placed forcefully into a totally alien culture.  The food was different, the religion was different, the customs were different.  Even his name was changed from a name that meant “God is My Judge” to Belteshazzar which meant “Bel protects his life.”  His very identity as a believer in the God of Israel was challenged by this new name honoring an idol god of the Babylonians.

I struggle with the friction between speaking the truth, not backing down from the principles I strongly believe to be right and showing the love of God to those whose beliefs are different than mine.

How do we “stand firm” but “love well.”

Daniel is a good example of that.

He and his friend stood firm on their foundation of faith refusing to bow down to idols and continuing to speak to God when the king said they could pray to no one but himself.  They were willing to lose their lives for their belief in God.

However, if you read Daniel’s interaction with the king he was always respectful and never spoke in anger or showed irritation with the king.  He served within the Babylonian government and obviously worked for the good of the government disobeying only when his basic belief in God was challenged.

We need to follow his example.

Stand firm – never compromise our principles even when it may led to persecution or difficulty.

Love well – never treat those who disagree with us with disrespect or hatred.

My pastor ended Sunday’s sermon with a powerful question:  Do we truly love our enemies as Jesus told us to do.  We often say to “hate the sin, but love the sinner” but in truth do we love the sinner?

A great example of this today I feel is how so many famous Christian ministers are calling for the church to pray for Donald Trump.  We should do so.  The Bible clearly tells us to pray for those who are in authority over us.

But where is the call for pray for Nancy Pelosi or Adam Schiff?  The Bible clearly tells us to pray for those who persecuted us.

Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum – which ever politician you would view as the enemy, I challenge you to pray for them.

Let us Stand firm but love well!