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Should Sin Be Illegal?

January 26, 2015

That title comes from a question that a non-Christian friend asked me some time ago – “Do you Christians believe that everything that is sinful should be illegal?”  At the time I answered “If everything sinful was illegal we would all be in jail.”  Quite frankly I was pleased with my clever answer grateful that the Holy Spirit had given me the words to say.  We had an interesting, if inconclusive, discussion after that exchange.

But the question is a good one.  Just what actions that we think are contrary to God’s will for our lives need to be the law of the land?  And what precepts can we obey ourselves and accept that people who differ should not be compelled to follow?  This is the critical issue in the culture wars.  What issues must we fight tooth and nail to make sure that others follow our principles?  What issues can we stand firm on while accepting that others disagree.

For example, this woman tells the heartbreaking story of finding out that the child she was carrying would not live after the deliver for more than a few minutes.  She made the decision to carry the baby to term and allow it to die.  Nobody with a conscience could deny her the right to do this; nobody with a heart could ignore her pain.  She then goes on to be critical of those who choose to terminate that life a few weeks earlier.  She says: “I encountered so many stories of mamas who, like me, were shocked to discover around their 20-week appointment that their baby had a condition that was labeled ‘incompatible with life.’ Sadly, so many – SO MANY – of these babies were aborted before they ever had a chance. I read testimony after testimony of mamas who deeply regretted the decision to end their pregnancy.”   In other words, her decision needs to be the only choice.

Again, I am not judging her decision; I have friends who made the same choice.  But what must we lobby to make that choice the law?  When, where and under what circumstances must do our moral choices need to be law?

Questions like this are particularly troubling when other choices we make seem to be at odds.  For example, I’ve been pondering the way so many of my fellow, pro-life, evangelicals are praising the movie “American Sniper.”  How is it that we can call ourselves pro-life and follow a Lord and Savior who said this…

“You have heard that it has been said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you, do not fight with the man who wants to fight. Whoever hits you on the right side of the face, turn so he can hit the other side also… You have heard that it has been said, ‘You must love your neighbor and hate those who hate you.’ But I tell you, love those who hate you.  Pray for those who do bad things to you and who make it hard for you. Then you may be the sons of your Father Who is in heaven.“

…and at the same time say that the guy who said this ….

“Another question people ask a lot: ‘Did it bother you killing so many people in Iraq,’ I tell them,  ‘No.’ And I mean it. The first time you shoot someone, you get a little nervous. You think, can I really shoot this guy? Is it really okay? But after you kill your enemy, you see its okay. You say, Great. You do it again. And again. You do it so the enemy won’t kill you or your countrymen. You do it until there’s no one left for you to kill. That’s what war is.

“I only wish I had killed more… I loved what I did. I still do. If circumstances were different – if my family didn’t need me – I’d be back in a heartbeat. I’m not lying or exaggerating to say it was fun.”

…is a hero.  Why is it that our pro-life stance is critical of the termination of a baby with no chance of life and at the same time praising a man who terminated lives by the hundreds?  The reality is that Chris Kyle was forced into a situation where he made difficult moral choices every day; choices I don’t think I could have made. Can I respect that without calling him a hero?  Can I differ without calling him an evil sinner?  Can I do the same with a woman facing a tragic pregnancy with no winning answer?

So what is the answer to our problem?  Where do we insist that our answer must be imposed on those who don’t share our views?  Where can I have and share those views and not insist others follow them?  And why and how have I made those choices?

All laws are inherently moral.  They are passed to impose the morality a majority of us feel is essential on our society.  The only question is whose morality gets to rule the day?  For decades the Christian morality was essentially dominant. It now, at times, no longer is.

How do we live in a culture that we don’t rule?  In a culture where our understanding of morality does not automatically win?  I continue to believe that our calling is to win hearts into agreement with us, not force the unwilling to obey.


From → Christianity

One Comment
  1. Those of us looking on from other lands get the impression that, as far as American Protestant Evangelical Christians are concerned “America” stands shoulder to shoulder with God and His Word in commanding their allegiance. Hence anything that defends America or American values is equal in importance to laws that defend Scripture. This sniper was defending America so he’s doing the right thing. Abortion is anti-“American values”, so it’s the wrong thing.

    The rest of us are happy to live in the countries we do; we’re thankful that our laws protect us and give us religious freedom, but we don’t see our countries as “the new Israel” or “the Promised Land” the same way Americans look at theirs.

    I hear what you’re saying, but it seems as long as US Christians carry an equal religious-patriotic fervor for their country as they do for their God, your words are sinking into a deep dark well. Instead of being Christians in a secular nation, working to save individual souls, PE Christians will be work constantly towards making America God’s country.

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