Back a few years ago, a very popular television show saw the end of a successful 20-year run. Law & Order was a drama, often based on actual police and judicial cases, in which a crime was committed, followed by courtroom drama in the prosecution of the accused. The show was so popular, it produced an offshoot series — Law & Order: SVU.
So… if Law & Order was so popular on TV, why is the rule of law and order not popular in today’s culture?
We live in a society based on laws. When people enter into public office, in most cases, they put their hand on a Bible and swear to uphold and protect the Constitution of the United States. As Americans, our allegiance is not to a person… it is to a document that embodies the laws of the land. Article 2, Section 1, Clause 8 of the Constitution reads…
“Before he [President] enters the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:—’I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.'”
In a nation built on the rule of law, it is unacceptable for those in authority to allow those laws to go unheeded, ignored, and disobeyed. Yet, in recent years, we have seen our laws be ignored time and again, both by criminals on the street, and powerful individuals in the halls of government. Whether it is private citizens breaking the law, or a President of the United States ignoring the law, both will lead to anarchy if left unchecked.
In the midst of so much societal unrest in our nation right now, we hear much talk about the First Amendment. Again, referring back to the Constitution, the First Amendment states…
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
As a Christian, I believe in freedom of religion. As an American, I believe in freedom of speech. I do believe The First Amendment guarantees the right to protest peacefully.
When protests turn into the lawless chaos that we have seen over the past few years, resulting in looting, damage and loss of property, personal injury, and even death, this is not the definition of peaceful assembly. And when those in authority set the wrong example and precedent by blatantly ignoring laws, it creates an atmosphere of “anything goes” and a vacuum of absolution from personal responsibility. How can one hope to maintain a semblance of law and order when the laws you are tasked with upholding are berated and ignored… by the one tasked with upholding them.
Paul addressed the subject of authority in Romans 13 when he wrote…
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.
Paul understood that submission to authority is not a burden, but a blessing, because by honoring authority, we honor the One who put that authority into place. There is blessing in obedience (1 Samuel 15:22).
Peter wrote that by honoring and submitting to authority, we silence “the ignorance of foolish men.”
Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. ~ 1 Peter 2:13-17
“Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” Sounds like solid advice for a country that suffers from a crisis of leadership.
If we, the Church, can be a model of humility, integrity, and consistency, we can point people, not just to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, but be a shining example of the peace and blessing that come through submissive obedience. Often in the past, the church has abdicated its God-given responsibilities, taking us further down the road to governmental dependence. It is time for the body of Christ to once again be salt and light, and make a difference in a society that is flying blind. It is time for us to be an example of what a return to Godliness, law, and order looks like on a national scale.
How about you?