Friday, October 26, 2007

What Should We Expect?

In the news today, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that the 10 year sentence of a 17 year-old male for consensual sexual acts with a 15 year-old female was cruel and unusual punishment. This brings back to my attention a question that I have wrestled with for years. How should Christ followers relate to society? Specifically, should we expect unbelievers to act morally? Should our government legislate in ways that make unbelievers criminals for living life according to their nature?

Of course, I have no question about whether or not we should have laws against theft, murder, kidnapping, etc. We expect laws to protect one person from the wicked intentions of another. But what about laws regulating sexual practices? Yes, there ARE laws in the Bible about ungodly sexual practices, but we do not live in the theocracy for which these laws were written. We live in an ungodly, pagan society. Homosexuality is common, even if it is not normal. Adultery is rampant. Divorce is prevalent. Should our governments have laws that address these issues?

Should we expect government to protect our children from indecency on the television? Should we expect government to regulate the content of shows on the radio? Should we expect anything more from our society than that they are ungodly people doing what ungodly people do? Should we be surprised that schools are teaching sex education to elementary school kids?

I am proud of my country's heritage. I thank God that we have been influenced by godly men for over 200 years. But we cannot expect laws to govern hearts! The condition of our society reflects the condition of the hearts of the people who make up our society. And in my judgment, we no longer live in a "Christian" nation.

So, how should we live in such an ungodly society? Are not followers of Christ called to be salt and light? I do believe we should engage in the public square; the Bible gives us clear instruction:
"Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart'" (Zechariah 7:9-10).

We should be a loud and consistent voice for justice; this honors God. But what purpose do we serve by legislating against consensual immoral acts?

Please feel free to comment.



Eric Holcombe said...

As Christians, if we do follow God's commands, we will be at odds with the unbelieving world. As you say, our laws reflect our society. We are still benefiting from the consequence of our founders at this time, but as our society goes, so do our standards. We should expect increasing friction within our society - whether it maintains its original liberties (Christian-based or otherwise), or devolves into a police state. It's how man operates. He always has. America will be no exception. You will become more "salty".

As for the particular situation, I'm not familiar with the story, but looking at the ages, those two are considered adults in many cultures and in fact were considered adults in ours not too long ago. Hey, we had 12-year olds in charge of military ships in the War of 1812 (Farragut).
Physically, they are about there. Emotionally/mentally etc. they probably are not, but I believe that is more a function of our culture with the ever-growing span of "adolescence" now apparently extending to age 30+. I believe it is "our" fault the adolescents are not in fact adults by their mid teens. I don't plan on my daughters marrying that young, but I'd like for them to be prepared for womanhood by then.

Terry Delaney said...

Brother, I have struggled with the same question regarding what standards to hold people to. I have a friend who thinks I am arrogant because I say I hold myself to a higher standard than I do others (unbelievers). He does not understand that I am holding myself to the standard of Christ. All he sees is an unatainable goal.

I do not think we can hold people to the standards that we as believers hold ourselves to. However, I do think we should use the 10 Commandments as the fundamental rules by which a government should operate. (I realize that gets me into a major discussion on #4 with believers and 1-4 for unbelievers, but that is fine, it is not the point to be made here.)

Christianity actually demands we tolerate other religious practices and beliefs insofar as they do not harm others while always evangelizing them. I don't think we can expect the world to live as we do. I do believe we can expect to impact the world by living for Christ because He alone can change the world. Besides, we know this war will exist until He returns. We just need to dig in and be ready to fight til the death.

Mary said...

I was watching CNN regarding the young man who was released from prison. He'll be doing on interview on Monday I will be interesting to watch. Anyway, I do believe he was rightly released. Then I heard they ruled it a misdemeanor, which I felt was wrong. While it is sexual sin, it still was a consentual act involving people who were old enough to know what decision they were making. Still sinful, but does sin *always* equate to illegal?

It really is a tough question to answer. If we believe that certain things should be illegal (such as homsexual marriages), and yet believe other things should be does that look to the unbeliever who is looking at us? It's something we have to be careful about.

Terry, I would just be careful about the word "tolerance." In today's society, it has come to mean support and acceptance.

Terry Delaney said...


I understand what "tolerance" means today--when I studied philosophy for 2 1/2 years, I fought against this new understanding of tolerance almost as much as I did against relativism. I hate that that has to even be defined because some knucklehead means to mean all things are equally valid therefore nothing is absolute.

What I do mean is that Christianity cannot be forced on people. We can only preach the gospel and allow the Holy Spirit to work in their lives. If it were a matter of force, we'd be nothing better than a Muslim and if that were the case, this world would go to hell in a basket quicker than all get out. However, we must continue to be faithful to God and know He is sovereign over all matters. That faithfulness means evangelizing the lost and exhorting the saved to live the godly lives that the Bible demands of us.

God bless.

Mary said...

Oh I totally get where you're coming from and I 100% agree. My point was just in exercising caution when using the term outside of a "seminary circle" who understand that view because the term carries so much negativity now, particularly with Christians. It's like the word "gay"...while the definition can still be correctly used as "happy", we know that in today's society it's no longer carries that meaning.

S. Todd Young said...

Thank you guys for your comments! I really appreciate you! So, where do we draw the line? Should our government regulate moral, yet non-harmful-to-others actions?

Terry Delaney said...

The very nature of a governing body is to legislate morality. The problem is that we believe morality is relative and is ever changing. So, yes, the government must fulfill this role as the church no longer holds sway like it used to. If we believe Romans 13 to be true, then we must remain submissive to our government. Besides, even a corrupt government is better than anarchy!

Mary--I am so glad I finally figured out who you are. Talk about feeling like a goober! I always define my terms when dealing with those outside of Christianity and even those inside of Christianity when dealing with an academic crowd. As a youth pastor, I would always explain my terms because I knew I was dealing with other worldviews trying to indoctrinate them (see public schools and non-believing parents and youth).

Eric Holcombe said...

"Should our government regulate moral, yet non-harmful-to-others actions?"

Huh? Do you mean morally neutral (whatever the sliding scale is today)?

I agree with Terry on the legislated morality. I always cringe when I hear that we "can't legislate morality" - because that is absolutely what law is. Without law there is no liberty.

Our law (Constitution) permits the ability to "abolish" the current government - in essence revolt against and replace it - if need be. When do you determine that is needed? What, as Christians, should the limit be? If the founding fathers totally submitted, we would still be English colony slaves (while probably paying only a slightly higher tax rate).

This gets back to my thinking on why there is no such thing as a Christian nation.