|Moses Breaking the Tablets of the Law|
(1659) by Rembrandt
Last Sunday, the sermon was on laws and rules and that we should “Follow the law with Joy” in keeping them. Pastor Dave discussed the reasons for rules – preventing chaos, making order out ofchaos, keeping people safe, right vs wrong, etc. he also covered Grace overflows and Love forgives us when we break rules. We are saved From the law and saved For the law.
We all break rules and laws – most of us on a daily basis. Sometimes because we don’t believe in the validity of the law, sometimes because we think “no one” will catch us, sometimes because we are distracted and missed that stop sign, and as anyone who has ever dealt with a toddler knows, sometimes to push our boundaries to find out what they really are. There are laws and rules that we break because we don’t know they exist.
Some rules and laws are written in ink and are punishable under a court of law. Others are formed by societal norms and the penalty for breaking them can be anything from “banishment” and “being disowned” by our family and friends, to our mother, with a sigh, telling us once more to be polite and nice rather than picking on our sibling.
But when we look at the world and start considering the laws and rules in different countries, we often find that regardless of the religion and societal norms currently in place, the rules and laws have a common denominator in that they essentially follow the 10 Commandments and the “Golden Rule”, even in countries where those have never been known.
We live in a world filled with laws and rules. But while we try to justify some of them by saying they prevent chaos or make order out of chaos, they keep us safe and help us ensure that right and wrong are properly dealt with, flat and simple, there are laws and rules that need to be broken. Rules that go against the 10 Commandments and the Golden Rule. They not only need to be broken, but we need to shout it from the rooftops and make people talk about why they need to be broken.
Often the laws were written at a time when the societal norm said that this or that action is “right” and will prevent Chaos, later we look at it through a different lens and think to ourselves, “NO”. But then we look at ourselves and say, “I better stay out of this”, “This isn’t MY fight”, “I don’t have a dog in this fight”, “that might reflect badly on me if I do anything”, so we walk away. In hindsight, from 10-20 years later (or longer), we regret our inactions, but still justify them based on societal norms. We weren’t the ones who made the rule or law, after all, we just abided by it, like a good citizen should.
BUT, if rules and laws were meant to be stagnant and never change, why would we have a supreme court? Why would we have legislators that propose new rules and laws and the removal of old ones?
Do you know what the Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia was about? A white man married a woman of color which was against the State of Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924. In 1958, they were both sentenced to a year in prison for getting married. It wasn’t until 1967 that the US Supreme Court ruled in their favor and overturned their convictions. What about Jones vs Mayer, which happened in St Louis in 1965, when a St Louis builder, the Alfred H Mayer company refused to sell them a home in North St Louis county. It wasn’t until 1968 that the US Supreme Court issued a ruling that no one could refuse to sell a home because of the buyer’s race, though the Fair Housing Act was passed a month earlier than the court ruling after Martin Luther King was assassinated.
While both those cases dealt with racial issues, there are many cases that dealt with other issues – from women not being allowed to own property and to have a voice in the rules that governed their lives. Do you realize that women could not vote in Switzerland until 1971, over 60 years after most of the other first world nations changed their laws to allow women to vote.
We all know of laws and rules that we think are unjust and wrong. Laws and rules that go against the 10 Commandments and the Golden Rule. It is up to us to step up and say “NO”, and start the discussion, when we see something that is wrong, even if the societal norms and the legal rules and laws allow it.