Whenever something bad happens these days, the first words that will come to mind with a lot of people is: "There should be a law." The thinking seems to be that if there is a law, then bad things wouldn't happen. But, wait a minute. Isn't murder already against the law? What about theft, child abuse, rape, drunk driving, etc? Does this mean that people don't commit these crimes? Obviously not. So, why would this idea persist?
There may be some connection with another commonly heard expression: "People are basically good." If you accept the premise that people are good, then it might be true that all we need to do is create another law. "Good" people will always comply with the new law. But, is that saying even true? Let's ask a parent: If we are all basically good, then child rearing must be easy, right? Obviously, not. The reality is that "doing good" is a learned response and parents have to work very hard to raise their children to do the right thing in life.
But what's the harm in believing the best about our fellow man? None, if we lived an idealistic, Utopian world. The recent popularity of "Gun-Free Zone" signs is just one example of this misguided belief system, which doesn't account for the fact there are evil or sinful people in this world. With no one to shoot back at them, potential shooters have targeted places like schools, night clubs and movie theaters. You might as well post another sign right next to that one, which reads: "Mass Shooters Welcome." So, why have laws if they don't prevent crime?
We pass laws to let people know what is acceptable or unacceptable behavior, punish those who violate those norms, and remove the dangerous people from society for the protection of everyone else. Many would refer to this synopsis as the secular, or civil, use of the law. What should alarm us, then, is the growing trend in our country to excuse crime and forego punishment. Instead of law and order, we are rapidly becoming a society of law and disorder.
Christendom teaches us there are three uses of God's law, as summarized by the Ten Commandments: To act as a curb, a ruler, and a mirror. The civil law, as previously mentioned, is meant to act as a restraint of evil, or curb. It provides order and structure in our society. A second use of the law is to act as a ruler or guide to our daily life. The Golden Rule illustrates this concept by stating: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
The third, and most important, purpose of the law, however, is to be a mirror of our sins. The law teaches us that no one is good but God, and we come to realize our need for forgiveness, grace and mercy. May we all come to the knowledge of the truth and put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, the Holy Son of God and Savior of the World.