God's Law vs. Man's Law

Monday, March 26, 2012

In response to my previous post about the freedom to marry for homosexuals as well as heterosexuals, a family member asked if I think it's important for us to return to the godly standards upon which America was founded. I'll leave the question of whether this country was actually founded on biblical principles up to historians, but I absolutely agree with him that we should uphold God's law, if he means we as the church. Hopefully we've never tired in our striving for righteousness, but it is important for us to check up on ourselves and be sure we are the salt and light our Lord intended us to be. As Paul told the Corinthian church, "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?unless indeed you are disqualified." (2 Corinthians 13:5)

How do we know if we've been disqualified, for example, by the evil in the world around us? Verse 6 says, "But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified." He's saying that if Jesus is in us, then we know we're justified and sanctified through Him. Is there a way to be extra sure? Verse 7: "Now I pray to God that you do no evil, not that we should appear approved, but that you should do what is honorable, though we may seem disqualified."

If I'm understanding our Lord's Word correctly, Paul is saying that if we are doing what is honorable and not what is evil, we are not disqualified no matter how things may appear to be. As I wrote in my last post, the church should not allow sin in its midst but should "purge out the old leaven," as Paul instructed (1 Corinthians 5:7). There is a continual process of purging sin and returning to God that will not be complete until we join Him in His glory. This is true for us as individual persons and for the church at large.

If you ask me if all of America should return to God in obedience, my answer is more complex. I believe that God's kingdom is still growing from a mustard seed into a tree (Luke 13:19) and that all families of the world will be blessed through His covenant with His chosen people, which He first made with Abraham (Genesis 12:3). I take Psalm 22 literally when it says,

All the ends of the world
Shall remember and turn to the LORD
And all the families of the nations
Shall worship before you.
For the kingdom is the LORD's,
And He rules over the nations. (v. 27-8)
I have never heard of a time when all the families of the nations worshiped before God. It seems to me that if we're not looking forward to this event, then we don't really believe God. Apparently a time is coming when every family on the earth will be chosen by God for repentance and salvation.

But the question then arises, how are we to bring America to repentance? I think most of us agree that God can use our fervent prayer, our hard work in His name, our witness of His deeds and His salvation, and our holiness as His church to bring His chosen ones to repentance leading to salvation. I see this in my own church regularly, and I pray that all churches across this land are seeing glimpses of God's work in their own community.

But many Christians, and even entire churches, seem to endorse a tool for righteousness that scripture does not seem to support. Even as they call for economic freedom in America, Republicans, many of them Christians, simultaneously call for denial of the freedom for unbelievers to sin. We are taught from childhood that laws are good. But we all know what tools are necessary to enforce man's lawspolice and courts. And court decisions are enforced through yet more police action. And police only have power through violence. 

Should the church endorse the enforcement of laws regarding marriage through the use of violence? Should the church endorse violence for any reason? To do so, we would have to disregard Christ's teaching to not resist an evil person (Matthew 5:39) and Paul's teaching to repay no one evil with evil (Romans 12:17). Part of being perfect, as our Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48), is showing mercy to unbelievers who sin because they are enslaved to sin.

God has established our city, state and national governments, as He has established all governments (even North Korea's). He controls all things, and He is King of all the nations. He has instructed His church to submit to the governing authorities (Romans 13:1), but never does His Word tell us to endorse what they do or to be part of it. Unlike man's law, God's law is the law of love:

"...He who loves another has fulfilled the law...Love is the fulfillment of the law." (Romans 13:8, 10)

"For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Galatians 5:14)

"If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself,' you do well." (James 2:8)

If there is any hope of widespread repentance in America, the law of man enforced upon the unbelieving will not bring it about. God works in the world by bringing about repentance leading to salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10). He would have us join Him in this work rather than joining political parties and human governments in theirs. We cannot force America to return to God. We must be obedient in what our Lord has commanded in His royal law of love, so that He may draw the nations to Himself through repentance.

[Originally published June 28, 2011, on the blog On Faith and Authority]