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The Laws of God and the Laws of Man

Laws are necessary for any society to function and survive.  Laws give structure, create boundaries, differentiate right from wrong, set obligations, and define penalties and punishments.  Laws provide standards so that citizens may know what is expected of them and what to expect from others.  Without laws, a state of anarchy would exist, which would create chaos, confusion, and abuses. 

God has ordained civil authorities to enforce laws for the good of all people.  This is the message of Romans 13:1-4:

1Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.  3For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil.  Do you want to have no fear of authority?  Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; 4for it is a minister of God to you for good.  But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.

Similarly, 1Peter 2:13-14 says,

13Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.

The governing authorities are indeed ordained by God, but not all laws passed and enforced by these authorities conform to God's expressed will in His word.  In fact, some of the laws passed by the governing authorities of man contradict the laws of God.  Such contradictions between man's laws and God's laws become more frequent as a society turns away from God.  This is because man's laws reflect man's morality, and man's morality often does not reflect the morality defined by God's word.  Consider the explanation of law and morality given by Robert W. Emerson on page 6 of his book Business Law:

Law generally represents the developing, common morality of human beings.  Government almost always seeks to ally itself with prevailing customs, to proclaim as right only that which most citizens already perceive to be right, and to impose as law the rules considered by the majority or by more powerful or vocal minorities to be moral and therefore just.

This passage from Emerson explains much of what is happening in the United States today.  In many cases, "more powerful or vocal minorities" have influenced society to turn away from the teachings of God's word and to morally accept behaviors that God condemns.  This has been accomplished through the media of television, films, books, websites, and other publications, some of which are used in business, governmental agencies, and public schools.  With this influence spreading, the laws of the land are being amended to reflect the new morality of this influence rather than the true morality of God's word.

The practice of homosexuality is a potent example of this process.  Only a few decades ago, homosexuality was scarcely ever mentioned and even more rarely practiced.  However, a powerful and vocal minority now has access to media such that society has been influenced to shift its opinion about homosexuality.  A steady and increasing exposure to this behavior and a false portrayal of its goodness and morality have succeeded in shaping public policy.  Even most religious organizations and denominations are becoming more accepting of practicing homosexuals according to Duke University's National Congregations Study.  As a result, all state laws prohibiting sodomy have been struck down as unconstitutional, and homosexual marriage is quickly becoming the law of the land.  Any discrimination against homosexuals is now categorized in the same manner as discrimination due to ethnicity, gender, or age.  As man's laws about homosexuality evolve along with changing public opinion, the word of God on the matter remains unchanged in passages like Genesis 18:20, Leviticus 18:22, 1Kings 14:24, Romans 1:26-27, 1Corinthians 6:9-10, and 1Timothy 1:10.

Therefore, Christians who want to see the laws of man in this land conform to the laws of God must seek to turn their families, friends, and neighbors to God. This is because the battle for the passage and enforcement of laws begins with a battle for public opinion and individuals' hearts.  In recent years, Christians have been losing this battle in their homes, in the churches, and in public arenas, and the current state of man's laws reflect this. Nevertheless, the tide of public opinion can be turned back toward God, and man's laws can revert to compliance with God's laws.  This will not be accomplished by politics, but it will only be by good old-fashioned gospel teaching.  Are we up to the task?

Stacey E. Durham



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