As Americans we have special reasons to celebrate our legal heritage. As followers of Jesus, particularly, we thank God for the Declaration of Independence which provides crucial context for understanding and interpreting the Constitution. That declaration proclaimed that our constitutional rights – including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – were endowed by our Creator, not by government, not by voters.
However, the battle rages in our courts, Congress, Legislatures and law schools over the concept of “legal positivism” – the idea that man, not God, is the ultimate source of law. Of course, if man is the originator of rights, man can take them back. We have all seen how nations which reject God’s sovereignty – Nazi Germany, the Communist Soviet Union or North Korea – can turn law into a source of oppression and terror. Consequently, believers must not only cherish but vigorously contend for laws that allow us to:
1. Find God
Laws which reflect God’s justice and mercy help us see our need for the Savior. Paul explained this clearly:
What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”[a] But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful. (Romans 7:7-13)
2. Know God
The free speech and free exercise clauses in the First Amendment to our Constitution have strongly protected our right to hear and speak the Gospel. But today that protection is under assault by those who argue speech which people dislike because it threatens their “comfort zone” or challenges their identity should not be allowed. Christians must respond by advocating on every level their rights and also the rights of those with whom they disagree to speak, worship and live out their faith.
3. Demonstrate God
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) This verse exhorts believers to demonstrate to each other and to non-believers who God is—not by speech or worship—but by instituting justice and mercy in our legal dealings and throughout our lives. Of course, administering law involves exercising power over others. That power whether in a judge, jury, lawyer, or political party, can corrupt us. Consequently, Micah urges us to continually reflect on whether we are replacing God as we “act justly” and “love mercy” or are in fact submitting to Him.
4. Protect Children
“. . . Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’” (Luke 18:16) Our legal system often purports to decide cases in favor of “the best interest of the child” but as I have shown in Jesus in the Courtroom, the American legal system has increasingly prioritized the preferences and pleasures of adults over the interest of children in the areas of:
a. Little ones in the womb
b. Adoption, custody and foster care
c. Primary and secondary education
d. Post-secondary education
e. Deficit spending
f. Youth employment
g. Sexual identity
Parents, grandparents, pastors, educators, voters, pro-lifers, pro-choicers, union leaders, lawyers, judges, social workers, law enforcement, medical professionals, politicians and anyone whose lives affect our little ones and youth need to become informed of the manifold wrongs against those who need adults to defend them. As believers become informed of the many ways we can help children, we may often need to repent to God for our complacency and take actions to protect children as He enables us.
5. Rest in God
“For the one in authority is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God's servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” (Romans 13:4) In our fallen world the laws establishing our military and police protect us from evil doers. Believers need to support, encourage and pray for them; not only for our safety, but for the safety of all and so the gospel can be shared and lived out with less hindrance.
Psalm 119 gives us 145 verses praising God’s Torah – His law, word, statutes, precepts, ordinances, teaching, decrees and commands! American believers can equip themselves for the legal challenges we face, mediating upon and internalizing the Psalmist’s heart toward God’s law. Turn there now, read the verses aloud to God and respond as His spirit empowers you.
John Mauck is a Chicago civil rights attorney with Mauck & Baker, LLCand author of Jesus in the Courtroom,(2017) from Moody Publishers.
Image courtesy: ©Thinkstock/mj0007
Publication date: August 25, 2017