The Law and Life (1)
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22.37-40
An economy of justice
As we have seen, the economy of ancient Israel was designed in all its parts, not primarily to advance the material wellbeing of the people, but to achieve and maintain justice. A good society is one where justice and neighbor-love are the defining framework and currency. The more consistent we are in applying the Law of God, not only to matters of public policy but to our everyday lives, the more we may expect a good and just society to come into being.
A just society and nation would bring honor to God among the nations of the world, and God’s Law was intended as the means to this end. The goal of God’s Law is not material prosperity; such prosperity as comes to those who keep God’s Law is merely incidental and, at any rate, not particularly important to their overall wellbeing (cf. Phil. 4.11-13, 19).
The goal of God’s Law is, as we have seen, justice, which is another way of saying, love.
Justice and love
We have defined justice as the expression of God’s character and will in the arena of human life. The purpose of human life, in seeking the glory of God, is thus to work for justice in all things. Justice is defined above all in terms of love for God and neighbors, as Jesus explained in His answer to the lawyer’s question.
The purpose of the Law therefore, in pointing the way to a just society, is to promote the practice of love. Public policies that do not promote love are, at best, a diversion from God’s purpose for human beings, at worst, an inducement and encouragement to idolatry—loving things other than God and neighbor.
All public policies should be required to pass the test of love. Love is the purpose of human life; therefore, policies should be established which cherish and preserve life and encourage every living person to invest his life in just and loving ways.
The Law of God is a law for life: “You shall observe My judgments and keep My ordinances, to walk in them: I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the LORD” (Lev. 18.4, 5). “Set your hearts on all the words which I testify among you today, which you shall command your children to be careful to observe—all the words of this law. For it is not a futile thing for you, because it is your life…” (Deut. 32.46, 47).
The Law of God, which is holy and righteous and good (Rom. 7.12), is a law for life. Thus we should expect the Law of God to address matters of life and how we should regard it to know a good, just, and loving society.
Justice, life, and love
Serious questions about life are being debated in our society. Despite the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v Wade, many states have already moved to assure that abortion is still available to those who want one. Other states, following the example of certain Western nations, have used “quality of life” issues to advocate for euthanasia on behalf of those who desire it or whose “quality of life” indicates that taking their life may be in order. Questions continue to be debated about capital punishment, the taking of life in war, and the meaning and purpose of life.
Public policy—in every arena where it works—should reflect an awareness of the preciousness of life, precisely because life is the gift of God and its purpose is defined in terms of His glory. The Law of God requires those who would live under it to work for policies that take seriously God’s understanding of the purpose and preciousness of life.
In this part of our series, “The Law of God and Public Policy”, we will consider what the Law of God teaches concerning the value of life and what God requires of us in honoring, preserving, and advancing life as He defines it. And we will consider ways of working to achieve this perspective in the public policies of the land.
The Law of God provides a sound basis for working to insure justice and love for all creatures, especially for every human being. But if we will not appeal to this source for public policy decision-making in our day, then we will be governed by the changing whims and standards of an increasingly sensual and materialistic generation.
And such standards, as has frequently been demonstrated through the course of history, cannot be relied on to honor, preserve, and advance life as God intends. If we would realize full and abundant life, we must turn to the Law of God and to the Savior to Whom that Law leads us.
1. Have you been involved in any of the “life issues” our society has been debating? How have you participated, for example, in the long struggle over abortion?
2. What is the general tendency today in defining the meaning and purpose of life? What is life, and what is it for, as our secular society defines it?
3. Why should we expect the Law of God to take a clear and firm stand on matters of life?
Next steps—Preparation: Review the passages of Scripture cited in this article. Using only these, construct a preliminary statement concerning the Law of God and life.
T. M. Moore
What is the place of the Law of God in the Christian’s life? Our book, The Ground for Christian Ethics, answers this question and shows us again why Jesus taught us that keeping the Law is an indispensable part of our calling in God’s Kingdom. Order your copy of The Ground for Christian Ethics by clicking here. To gain a better understanding of how the Law of God applies in daily life, order a copy of our book, A Kingdom Catechism, by clicking here.
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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.