The last of the midterm elections ended yesterday with the election of Raphael Warnock as Georgia’s next Senator. Now that the nation’s congress is set, politicians are rushing to pass new laws and make new friends before the New Year. A lot of what we see political leaders working on has little to do with making life better for the country, and more so having to do with controlling behavior. Over the past few years, we have seen laws passed that make no common sense, but force people to “behave” a certain way. In other words, politicians did little to explain why these rules were necessary, just that society must do these things or we will be in trouble. No matter what age an individual is, he or she does not respond well when made to do something. Any parent knows that to have a lasting change of behavior one has to change the way the child thinks and understands. Discipline without direction leads to rebellion.
Adults are no different when it comes to discipline. When governments pass laws to bend behavior it does little to change the attitude of the individual. In fact, it turns the people against their leaders. Look at what is happening in China right now, or Indonesia. Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, with roughly 87 percent of the country’s 270 million people adhering to that faith. On Tuesday, Indonesian lawmakers unanimously passed legislation that criminalizes sex outside of marriage as part of a larger attempt to bring people in line with Islamic morality. In the Muslim faith, morality is primarily concerned with one’s actions. Consequently, if the government can keep people from committing sinful acts, they are helping their people live more in line with Allah’s will. But it doesn’t change their desires. If you cannot change a person’s heart punishing them into submission will only make the desire stronger. That’s why when you talk with a practicing Muslim, they will describe all kinds of loopholes that allow them to retain the behavior and honor Allah’s will at the same time.
Christianity, however, is a bit different. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus describes how it’s not enough to simply avoid sinful acts if we fail to address the sin in our hearts (Matthew 5:21-48). He starts the sermon by describing the character expected before ever really addressing actions (vv. 1–12). He points out that God has always been concerned with our motivations and the sins we never act upon (vv. 17–20). People had been looking for the loopholes and forgot about what God had already said.
We make the same mistake in our culture today. When we try to legislate morality, it puts all the focus on our actions. We develop into a culture that thinks that as long as we aren’t doing anything wrong, then we must be alright. The truth is that we are seldom more at risk of acting in a sinful manner than when we allow sinful desires to grow undisturbed in our hearts and minds. After all, every law against sinful activity would be unnecessary if we dealt with the sin before it ever rose to that level.
The government will always behave this way, as Christians we cannot. As the look of our new government comes together, continue to pray for those that lead us. Pray they will look to the Bible and address the “why” of behavior instead of the behavior itself. Most of the issues we debate have common sense fixes, but we have lost that over the years too.
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11
Serving the Savior,
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