Bruce’s Beat 8-12-2020
This summer has seen a wave of lawlessness sweep through many of our communities. I am not talking about peaceful protests made against injustice. That kind of protest needs to be embraced and supported by all of God’s people. “But let justice run down like water, and righteousness as a mighty stream.” – Amos 5:4. And I am aware that many times peaceful protest has been met in the wrong way by law enforcement, as responses to the Civil Rights marches of the 1950’s and 60’s demonstrated. But I believe there is a vast difference between the marches of Dr. King and the protests today. Dr. King pursued non-violent ways of protest, just like Gandhi had done in India in the 1930’s and 40’s.
Today’s protests lack the strong hand of leadership committed to non-violence and have been hijacked by lawless people who believe that “the end justifies the means,” or in the words of another Biblical passage, “Let us do evil that good may come.” – Romans 3:8. Attacks on police officers, emergency responders and other innocent people have been perpetrated. Now calls to defund and disband police departments are leading to a dramatic rise in shootings and homicides in many cities.
Humanity has often been beguiled by the lawless. Vigilante justice appeals to our sense of fairness when it seems that the law is impotent and so we cheer for the “anti-hero” whose good actions outweigh his flaws. From the days of Robin Hood in Medieval England to Outlaws like Jesse James on the frontier of the American West to gangsters like Bonnie and Clyde of the Depression era, there has been an almost romantic following of the outlaws and rebels in our country. This romanticism has been boosted by glorified portrayals in the media from books and comic books to the silver screen. Part of the romantic appeal derives from the fact that the outlaws robbed “the rich” or “the government” which was corrupt and overcharged taxes. Another part was the benevolence of the outlaws as they shared with starving poor people.
But when enticed to cheer for the lawless it is important to remember how God views lawlessness. The lawless individual is one outside the boundaries of law whether by ignorance or choice. The truly lawless person has contempt for law, though they might talk a lot about justice. The Bible characterizes lawlessness as sin, inquity and wickedness. “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.” – 1 John 3:4. The Hebrew writer, quoting Psalm 45:5-6, described Jesus saying, “You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness . . .” – Hebrews 1:9. Jesus died to redeem humanity from lawless deeds – Titus 2:14. When tempted to go along with the lawless, God’s people need to remember the prohibition, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” – 2 Corinthians 6:14.
It is said that you can tell a lot about the character of a person by the company they keep. Note the people that the Bible calls lawless. The Pharisees were described as lawless – Matthew 23:28. The Man of Sin is full of lawlessness – 2 Thessalonians 2:7-8. The citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah were lawless– 2 Peter 2:8. Zealots who brought about the destruction of Jerusalem were lawless – Matthew 24:12. And in what may hit closer to home, religious but disobedient people were told by Christ to depart from Him because they practiced lawlessness – Matthew 7:21-23.
What is the answer to lawlessness? First, don’t follow a mob. Part of the instructions to the children of Israel at Mt. Sinai said, “You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice.” – Exodus 23:2. God knows that mobs are easily manipulated. People will do things in a mob that they would never do on their own. Second, understand that God Has ordained law and law officers – Romans 13:1-7. And lest we are tempted to dismiss this passage, saying that we did not vote for the individuals in office, we need to remember that Paul gave these commands to Christians living under the heel of Nero at the head of the Roman Empire.
God does not want anarchy! Civil authorities are appointed by God – v. 1-2. They are God’s servants for good – v. 3-4. They are empowered to be God’s agents for punishing evil doers – v. 4-5; 1 Timothy 1:9. Christians have obligations to their rulers: to obey and submit to the laws – v. 5; to pay taxes – v. 6-7; to give government officials respect and honor – v. 7; and to pray for our rulers – 1 Timothy 2:1-3; 1 Peter 2:11-17.
Finally, remember who died for you. “Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself, His own special people, zealous of good works.” – Titus 2:14. Are we following the world in lawlessness? Or are we following Christ, the King who reigns in righteousness?