This is one that I’ve repeated in the past. Lies are funny. They become part of your psyche without a source sometimes. I can’t remember when or where I heard this, but it became part of my thinking. I don’t think I’m alone in being a person who subscribed to this or repeated this ideology.
Lie #2 – You can’t legislate morality
The truth is that we legislate morality all the time. It’s immoral to kill someone so there are these pesky little laws against murder. It’s immoral to steal things that aren’t yours, again it’s such a nuisance, but breaking and entering is against the law. Those are obvious instances, but we also get less obvious laws that legislate morality. For instance, how much you can drink and be in public. Laws against drinking and driving are obvious because of the inherit danger intoxicated drivers present to themselves and others around them. However, you also can’t be drunk in public. Most cities, all cities that I’m aware of, have some type of way of saying being overly drunk in a public space is immoral. Even if there is a place where such laws don’t exist people aren’t infuriated or shocked to find out that they exist. It’s pretty obvious that type of behavior is frowned upon.
Again, the point of all laws are that they are legislating something as good or bad, permissible or not permissible.
We can obviously see the error in a blanket statement like “you can’t legislate morality.” In one sense it’s true. You probably can’t pass a law that says no one can lust or be greedy. Those are the laws of God, enforced by a higher standard of morality, and legislated upon our hearts. We may not be able to legislate laws that dictate how a person feels or thinks, even speech is protected in our constitution. However, we legislate morality on behavior all the time.
My thought is that when people say “you can’t legislate morality” it’s really a different issue we are talking about. The real issue is who gets to determine what’s moral. Similar, the real question is where does our morality come from?
As Christians our standards of living and morality come from the Word of God. We know that the instructions of God are perfect.
“The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.”
Psalms 19:7 NLT
The more God’s word is reflected in the earthly laws we establish in our nation the more blessed we will be. Most legal and judicial systems are shaped by Jude/Christian ethics. In fact, there is a major difference between societies that are shaped by these ethics versus those who aren’t. Using the wisdom of God’s word to influence earthly governance is powerfully effective in producing peace and prosperity. It’s not just Christians that are blessed, the entire nation is blessed when laws are closely aligned with God’s law.
“Godliness makes a nation great, but sin is a disgrace to any people.”
Proverbs 14:34 NLT
What makes a nation great is when people with godly values organize a civil society around the principles of God’s word. One of the lies that goes along with the idea of not being able to legislate morality is that we can’t enforce our views on the entire nation. Here’s the realization we need to have. Someone’s views are going to be inflicted on the entire nation and the only view that is to the benefit of saint and sinner alike is a biblical worldview. The Bible says it rains on the just and the unjust. Rain in that instance is a symbol of something positive. The blessing of rain on the fields so harvest can come. There are millions of people who are experiencing the rain of God’s favor on our nation without acknowledging him simply because of our nation being organized around values and laws like freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and just laws that create freedom for people to pursue their own individual purpose. It’s true that you can’t legislate a faith. We can’t mandate from the White House that everyone become a Christian. Even if we did and everyone complied that doesn’t mean everyone would be saved because that would be a condition of their hearts towards God and not an adherence to a law. We can’t legislate our faith, but we can and should legislate our morality. Certainly there should be a discussion around what morality should be legislated, but there should be no question that we can legislate morality.
Here’s some simple ways to overcome the lie:
1. Replace the lie with the truth. Everything we read, see, and hear on our social media feeds and favorite news outlets is someone pushing a narrative of what’s right and wrong. Replace the lie with the truth that we can and should legislate morality. With that understanding we need to realize that we aren’t superior in our attitude, but God’s word is superior to all other ideas. God’s word alone is truth and perfection.
2. We should vote our values. As Christians in a free country like the USA, which is a fairly rare phenomenon in the global history of Christianity, we should vote according to biblical values. We have the infrequent and rare opportunity to help shape the government we live under. It’s both a privilege and a responsibility. Our nation gives hope to believers in other nations in the world that perhaps their nation may one day be as free and prosperous as ours. Every blessing is a responsibility. Our responsibility is to continue the blessing of being a nation that was shaped by Christianity.
3. Spread the Gospel. The gospel is simply the good news of Jesus, the kingdom of God, and salvation. Keep shining the light, keep sharing the truth of God’s word, don’t lose your voice. Recognize that we have been called to a leadership role as ambassadors of Christ to our society.