The other day I was driving 60 mph in a 45 mph construction zone. I was in the right lane and being passed by the rest of traffic. The penalty for speeding in a construction zone is quite steep and yet here we were zipping along. For some unknown reason there was no police in sight that day and that seemed to make speeding more acceptable. I arrived at my destination without a ticket or accident and that will probably embolden me another day to ignore the posted speed limit.
That driving event got me to thinking about laws in general. Many laws can be viewed as guard rails to prevent personal or public harm. If it were possible to create a law or set of laws that would eradicate evil behavior we would already live in paradise on earth. At the very least some society along the way would have had a utopian existence. The fact is that in the very beginning mankind only had one rule and that was do not eat the fruit of a specific tree. Personal desire has always been a stumbling block to following rules.
It is impossible to create a punishment great enough to change personal behavior of an entire population. As an example look at traffic laws. Fines for breaking traffic laws continue to increase and yet we consistently drive faster than the speed limit. Look around at the amount of people using cell phones while driving. Stop signs are treated like an option to some people. It is daily in any community with automobiles that seat belt laws are ignored. These are easy to follow laws that are designed to keep us safe. The penalty for breaking these laws are clear and enforced. Is it really surprising that some will not follow greater laws?
Some laws are ignored because people place more trust in themselves than they place in authority. If a person believes that drinking and driving does not impair their ability then no law will prevent that behavior. Some laws are broken out of pure rebellion such as when a person commits vandalism. Again this is a disregard for authority. Violent crimes show a blatant disregard for humanity and that too is an issue of authority. Laws do not change behavior, they just let us know what we are doing wrong.
In the Old Testament we read the laws God gave his chosen people to follow. These laws had very specific instruction along with punishment for not obeying them. Through the course of time traditions and other rules were added by men. None of these laws, rules, and traditions were capable of keeping people free of sin they only pointed out what was unacceptable behavior. The purpose of the Law was to guide and protect God’s chosen people until Jesus came to pay the penalty of sin. Jesus himself gave value to the Law when he said (Matthew 5:17) Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. Even though Christ fulfilled the Law there are those who place more importance on rules and tradition than the purpose for them.
As a society we will continue to modify laws to address social changes. There will always be those who will not submit out of disrespect for authority. There will always be those who push the limits of various rules out of selfish ambition because that is what humans do. Yet the penalties will increase and the wording will change in an attempt to create a safe and peaceful world. Ultimately if laws could save humanity Jesus would not have had to die on a cross for our sin.
Rev. Burt Schwab