We seem to have a very high regard for the law in our country, and it is right that we should do so. However we appear to have developed an attitude that the law can do anything by simply banning anything we think to be wrong, illegal. We are encouraged to think that the law can ensure life is perfect. In reality our experience is very different.
It is quite fitting that on this 5th November, when we mark a group people who were determined to destroy a parliament and a king with whom they fundamentally disagreed, and were attempting to undermine the law of the land.
The problem is the law is not always the straight forward tool we might think it to be. We have seen many cases recently going through the courts where someone appears to think an offence has been committed and another disagrees. The result is an appeal to higher court and then a higher court and even another court and we rely upon judges making moral decisions. We now have senior police officers telling us they need to uphold the law, yes it is unfortunate when someone is offended, but they tell us that much of what is expected of them to deal with is not contrary to the law.
There are many cases where a law has been created, but who is there to actually police the new law, irrespective of how worthy the law is?
The law is a not a good tool to use in changing peoples attitudes and behaviour.
There seems to be a longing to get back to the ‘old ways’, but what were the old ways? It was where generally people were happy to be considerate of others, not always desperate to get to the front of a queue, but happy to give way. Where people would not steal not because the law said it was wrong, but because they were aware of the consequences of being outcast by their friends and family.
Many churches have the 10 commandments set up prominently somewhere and these are the fundamental backbone of our law given by God to the people of Israel some 3,000 years ago and more.
They establish a pattern of living that is good for people to follow, and while we are no longer under the law of Israel which has been superseded, the law is fulfilled in Jesus, we know that fundamentally to obey will give each of us a safe and harmonious society.
That is what God intended.
The book of Proverbs in the bible puts it quite bluntly 19:16
Whoever keeps commandments keeps their life, but whoever shows contempt for their ways will die.
For children growing up they hopefully learn not to steal and they do so not because it is against the law, but because it will upset the family if they do so.
So each of us needs to take our responsibility to others seriously and note Jesus words as he faced questions.
Matthews gospel in the bible we read this, 29 Jesus told them ‘You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.’
33 When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.
35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’
37 Jesus replied: ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”
Let us pray for wisdom and justice for our lawmakers, for those whose role it is to enforce the law and for each one of us, as we live with the God given guidance by which to live in peace.