observations and opinion
This message is directed towards people who believe there is a God. The message is this: if you decide that you know what God wants, then you are placing yourself in the role of God. If you make judgments about others based on “God’s law”, and if you use human power and force to compel obedience, you are turning other people into slaves. Not slaves of your God, but slaves of YOU. You are pretending to be God and as such, you are committing blasphemy.
There is a distinction between God’s law and man’s law. This is absolute and crucial, to understanding how human beings have always lived and must live. Where we forget that they are different, where we believe or act as if human beings can discern and impose upon others, the laws of God, we are slapping God in the face – because we are taking His name and authority unto ourselves. It is a sin.
Let me explain why.
Man’s law is imperfect. It is the best we can do. It addresses what we believe we need, to live our lives peaceably and well. It changes and slips and falls backward and leaps forward with the times, with events, politics. Also, it is adopted by some men – perhaps most through democratic means, perhaps through tyranny. And then it is imposed on people, through force. We may agree or disagree with it, but we are compelled for the most part, to comply or else, pay a price.
God’s law is entirely different. It cannot be completely known or understood – we look for it in the sources we believe are prophetic, divine. Compliance with it may be expected of us, but it cannot be forced. It must always be voluntary, it must always be a matter of choice within a person because if it is not, then it’s not God’s law that ‘s being enforced: it’s man’s law. Obedience to God’s law happens inside us, and only inside us by our true choice. God has no reason to force it upon us – He has all the power in the world, after all. God is looking for us to make a choice, because He has equipped us to do so, and given us the chance to choose.
God has told us, we think, “thou shalt not kill.” What does that mean? We take it to mean, we are not to snuff out the life of another human being. That is a very clear rule and if God meant it when He said it, any of us who raises a hand to kill another person, has arguably broken God’s law. Thus any doctor who hastens the death of a patient, has breached this commandment. Any police officer who kills a violent criminal, has breached this commandment. Any soldier who takes up arms and shoots the enemy soldier, has breached this commandment. If you believe a fetus is a human being, any abortionist has breached it. If you believe we have a duty to help the indigent and we do not, and they die, we may then have breached it. The executioner breaches it for a living, and so on.
We don’t know for sure whether we have breached God’s order. God gave us this rule and then invites us to choose. He equips us to do our best in the situation, and to choose. If our actions transgress His rules, only He knows that and ultimately, only He decides.
Among human beings, it is different. Man’s law says that a police officer may have to take a life. Indeed, any of us may have to take a life, if the circumstances satisfy man’s law. The executioner is not deemed a murderer. A soldier is not deemed a murderer. In most places, an abortionist is not legally judged – by the law of man – to be a murderer. Man’s law examines behaviour according to the circumstances and needs of human beings. The test applied to this, whether a killing was done for the wrong motives, beyond a reasonable doubt and so forth, are all human tests, created to help distinguish between behaviour we accept and behaviour we reject and call criminal.
None of that – no law of man, no earthly court – decides for God what is or is not a sin. That would be the most presumptuous thing any person could do, to place himself in the seat of God and mete out the judgment of God. It is not within our competence as mortals to do so and, worse, it is entirely opposite to what God would be looking for from us.
We have been given the mental capacity to make decisions, beyond the instinctive urge to kill for feeding or self-protection. We have enormous, complex and sophisticated capacities to discern and decide. If there is a God – if you believe He is there – then God deserves credit for having imbued us with these capacities. We are imperfect, but we are touched with this special quality, and we are judged by God how we use it.
But is God judging whether we are sinners for speeding, or not wearing a seat belt, or cheating on our taxes, or whatever other rule human beings have concocted to manage an orderly society? No. God has His own rules, His own purposes, His own interest. He has vested in us the ability to choose whether we sin against His law, and THAT is what God must be interested in. And that interest, I would submit, is how we use the capacities which have been given to us.
It may be that cheating on your taxes or your husband or your golf game, are things that God would find fault with. Maybe, but He only mentioned one of them among the commandments: adultery. God is not handing out tickets or issuing fines for human violations of human laws. God is not a traffic cop
Our duty in our society, is to obey the law of man. If we don’t, it may be because of some other duty of conscience or simple convenience. Man may or may not punish us for disobedience. Our breaches of man’s law will meet whatever outcomes other human beings have decided, and that is all we can know. How God judges it – whether our obedience to human law is also obedience to God’s law, is only up to two people: you alone, within your conscience and what you believe God wants, and God. No other person can judge your godliness or your sin.
That is why obedience to God must be entirely voluntary and personal, under no pressure or compulsion by men. The moment human interests compel obedience, it is not God who is being worshipped: it is other men, and their power on Earth.
If you are interested in satisfying God’s wish for how human beings live, you are limited in what you can do about that, without interfering with the Lord’s project. You must decide for yourself, how to live. You may offer your insight and belief to others, if you so choose. And you must reject, resist, go to war against, any effort by human beings to force an earthly obedience to their idea of God. Even your own idea of God, must never be made into man’s law.
God cannot possibly be interested in human compliance, with human rules – He cannot possibly be looking for slaves, living under compulsion or pressure. He cannot want a half hearted or insincere, superficial or phoney observance of rules, as an outward sign of fidelity to Him. After all, He knows what’s going on inside your heart.
It is for this reason that we must work much harder to draw a bright line between the laws of human beings, and the laws of God. If you believe in God and think His admonitions are a worthy way to live on earth, you can offer that to your fellow men and suggest they consider it. But if you force it upon your fellow man, you are violating their liberty and choice, and if you steal from another man his liberty and choice, you are yourself interfering with God’s project on earth.
If you do not believe in God, that doesn’t mean you are entitled to lawlessness. Human law is a collective decision we make as to how we wish to live. I wish to have police officers who, if necessary, can kill to protect my loved ones or yours, from injury or murder. That is what most human law permits. We do not jail the policeman, or even the civilian whose actions were taken for right purposes, even when they kill. That is a matter of human law and human judgement.
How God feels about it, is up to God. We aren’t taking away His right to choose, and we shouldn’t take away each other’s right to choose, whether we are “godly” or not. Christians who believe non Christians are doomed to eternal damnation may be right, or wrong, but it’s irrelevant here on earth: God decides. Muslims who believe the same of non-Muslims are entitled to think what they think, but they are NOT entitled to think or act on behalf of God.
Thus, ANY action taken in this life, on behalf of God or in the name of God, is by definition a lie and a theft: God can take care of Himself, and take His own decisions, and act as He sees fit. He may move you to do something through His power or persuasion, but He is not reposing in you, or me, or anyone else, the authority to choose and act for Him. To presume that, is itself a sin. The worst sin, perhaps, because it is a renunciation of God’s authority – when you clothe yourself in divine power, you have stolen it from God himself. It is a kind of self-idolatry.
We must as human beings, struggle to make rules and live together as best we can. Those rules and choices will change. Men may not marry men, and then the rules will change and they can marry each other. Our doctors will not be able to end the life of a terminally ill and suffering patient, and then our courts decide that is cruel to the patient, and it becomes legal under man’s law, in one country or another. People in the USA were permitted to go without medical insurance – imposing huge costs on the public purse – until Obamacare came along and made insurance compulsory. Life changes, people change, circumstances change and then, the rules change. As we choose, under the constraints of our man-made legal systems, in the places where we live.
The laws we make are an imperfect effort to shape a society we think suitable. The rewards and punishments of that system, are decided by human beings. In many cases, there may be parallels between what we think God mandated for us, and how we organize our lives. That’s quite common – murder and theft, for example, are two things God forbids under His law, that we have attempted to define and police under human law.
It may be that the choice I make today, to obey man’s law, could offend God. I will have to wait and see what He thinks. Or it may be that my choice to obey God’s law might lead me to breach man’s ordinances. If I refuse to pay my taxes because I think having an army violates the law of God, well, that may make God very happy but it will make my fellow man (who DO pay taxes) very unhappy. God may have a reward waiting for me there, but in all likelihood humans will put me in jail (on Earth) for not contributing what the law demands.
It is here that I must give unto God, what is God’s and unto Ceasar, what is Ceasar’s. The king of the universe is not concerned with how well I worship the mortal king of some strip of human soil – He is interested in what He is interested in. He may make that known to me, or He may not. That is up to Him.
And if you take it upon yourself to decide what God wants, and if you should decide to force me to obey your version of what God wants, then what you will have done is the worst thing of all – you will have cheated God of his role, and you will have stolen from me the chance to use the free choice God has given me, and you will have made yourself into a false idol.
So be quiet and leave me alone. Let God do His job, and you go do yours.