Rule of Law
By: Jim O'Brien
There was a time when every American cut his teeth on the phrase Rule of Law. But what does it mean and why is it so important?
Plato lamented that one of the worse things that can happen to any civilization is the breakdown of law. It signaled the imminent collapse of the state. Conversely, he believed, "...if law is the master of the government and the government is its slave..." then the state would be healthy and endure. In other words, there must be something to which even the state is accountable. The government, as well as citizens, must be subject to law.
Why is this so important? Man, by nature, is biased. Look at parents as their children compete on the athletic field. We expect the umpires to act differently.
The question is how to get impartial judgments when biased people come into conflict. Would you want to face a judge who is the father of the opponent in a legal battle? What if the judge is a business partner or close friend of your opponent?
The law is impartial. Equality of men comes only when a nation embraces the Rule of Law.
What is left when the Rule of Law is abdicated? It is rule of man, or at least of certain men, and therefore it is subject to corruption. If there is no speed limit it is the policeman's subjective judgment that determines whether you are traveling too fast.
We say that a person who goes through a green light while others are stopped at the red light has the right of way. But that's because of law. Without law there is chaos. So, the Rule of law is the basis for civilization. And when the President and members of Congress are sworn into office, they swear before God to uphold the Constitution, the Rule of Law for our country.
Still, what about bad laws? What if a law is written, either by design or through lack of wisdom, so that it is unjust? Or what if, using all the wisdom available and with the best of intentions, society writes a bad law? Is that possible? Does it make any difference? Is it sufficient if we just do our best when making laws?
Well, maybe all we can do is our best, but if you're on the receiving end of a bad law, you want good laws. In other words, a man-made law does not change the laws of nature. That is, if man makes a law that says that citizens must walk with their feet above the ground, it would not change the laws of nature.
And if a government makes a law that says you must pay more taxes than is reasonable it breaks a higher law.
The United States was founded on the principle that Natural Law supersedes the laws of man. They believed that man is created to behave within a framework of civilized actions. Any laws of man that are contrary to the Natural Laws of the Universe will work contrary to man's best interest.
It was to this principle that the founders of our country looked when they chose to throw off the chains of tyranny. The Declaration of Independence stated to the world that the nation's choice to resist oppression was one that "the Laws of Nature and Nature's God entitle them...." In other words, there is a Supreme Court of Heaven that has precedence over any court or army of man.
This country was founded by men who looked to the Laws of God to justify self-defense from tyranny.
Consider for a moment, when a country rejects the Laws of God, to what court can it appeal for redress of oppression? If men recognize no court higher than their own, where can they go to fight injustice?
But how can a man know for certain he is following the Law of God? Wouldn't you want to know without a doubt that the laws you obey are from God?
When the children of Israel were freed from slavery imposed by Egypt, one of the first things God did after they crossed the Red Sea was to gather the people together, maybe three and a half million people, and gave them the Laws of God. Keeping these laws would make Israel a great nation (Lev. 26:3-13).
In all of man's history there is no other such example. God spoke from heaven to an entire nation who heard His voice (Exodus 20:22) and saw the tablets written with His finger. There was no mistaking that these were the Laws of God.
Having observed the Days of Unleavened Bread when Christians celebrate the freedom given to us by our Savior, let us reflect that He set us free from sin just as He set Israel free from tyranny. We gratefully acknowledge that His Law, the law that He gave to those free men who stood in the desert, is the Law of Nature and the guide for life.
Until next time,
Pastor, Church of God Cincinnati
You can contact Jim O’Brien by: