Reverence for Law

A coherent and safe society requires just laws and reverence for law.  Nowhere in world history does reverence for law attain the height of the revelation of the Law from God at Mt. Sinai.  We see that reverence in the movie The Ten Commandments.  That movie actually reflected the reverence for law that was so well established in the United States at that time.  However, we do note the unjust laws that deserved protest, the Jim Crow discrimination laws, and discrimination policies that targeted Jews and African Americans in many parts of the United States.

The great philosopher at the end of the 18th century, Immanuel Kant, argued that society would fall apart if there was not a general reverence for law.  He also argued that belief in God and rewards and punishments after death were necessary to sustain an adequate reverence or fear so that society would be law-abiding.

All societies, however, that attained greatness, whether ancient China, India, Babylon, or Egypt maintained a reverence for law.  The problem in many societies was that the ruler was above the law and in some cases was considered divine with the authority to make law.  This was not the case in Biblical Law.  Indeed, Biblical Law requires the King to submit to the Law and precludes him from making laws contrary to God’s stated Law.

Paul in Romans 13 councils disciples of Yeshua to be submitted to the authorities and law of the land (so far as it does not contradict Biblical Law, as in Acts 5).  If there is a contradiction, then for conscience’s sake, we must disobey and suffer for our protest.  Paul also argues in Romans 2 that those who were not given the Law of God do rightly perceive much that is just and true though not on the level of Biblical Law.

One of the most painful aspects of our societies in the West and especially in the United States is that political leaders do not fulfill their oaths to uphold the law.  The remedy for this disobedience to the law, the double standards in enforcing the law, and even a gross intention and action to ignore and not enforce the law, is impeachment.  Officials that violate the law can be removed by legislatures.  However, in the United States today political leaders are stymied by disagreement on upholding the law and do not remove officials that violate their oaths to uphold the law.  Obedience to the law has been undercut by the claim that the law in general in the West was a manifestation of white supremacy and systemic racism.  This leads to disdain for the law.  We see the same disregard for immigration law.  If the law is not good, legislatures can change it, but it must not be ignored by the political officials who can decide without legislative authority what laws to enforce and what to ignore. Most of the law system in the West has been good and much based on a combination of Biblical law and some very wise Roman laws. British common law was also based on these sources.

However, this lack of reference for law today translates into social anarchy and puts us on a  road that is leading to dystopia.  At Christmas season many watch the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life.  One recalls the vision experience of Jimmy Stewart as the lead actor, being shown a world where he never existed.  The wicked Mr. Potter gains total control of the town and renames it Pottersville (nothing against the town of the same name on the southern end of Schroon Lake, New York).  He does not revere law and exercises despotic power.  When reverence for law is lost, those who have despotic power control the society.  People obey out of fear for their lives but not out of respect for good law.  The result is the dystopia of Pottersville, full of crime, prostitution, homelessness, poverty, grime, and despair.  What a great paradigm for what is now happening in the United States.  Our cities have become like Pottersville.

Messianic Judaism, like Reformed Christianity, is strong in upholding the Law of God, the Torah.  When you read my book Jewish Roots, I hope you enjoy the presentation of the role of the Law of God as a constitution for ancient Israel to produce a just and model society. The Law does not save us but shows the goodness of God in his intention to organize societies in a just, humane and loving way.