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The short answer is “no,” but it requires explanation. I would put so-called victimless crimes into two categories. The first would be those commonly trotted out as such; examples being drugs and prostitution. The second are those that may be said to have no moral component at all, resulting from the violation of laws that in fact do cause harm, often being agents of victimization.
A crime is generally understood to be the breaking of law, so we need to consider why law exists. We have laws because we are naturally lawless. Unconstrained, we will tend to do whatever suits us, considering others only so far as we have determined that to be in our best interest. If we were all carbon copies of Jesus, law would be largely if not entirely unnecessary. It is because we’re not that He had to come show us how to live and pay the ultimate price to redeem us.
Laws protect us from each other, and yes, from ourselves. That leads to more questions. How much law do we need? Who sets the standard by which the law is made? Who says what is right and what is wrong? What constitutes harm to others or harm to oneself? Does harm to oneself really affect only the individual? If the answer to the last question is no, how far can we go to protect the individual from himself under the banner of protecting others?
I observe three perspectives from which to answer these questions. One that we all seem to be able to agree on to one degree or another is that of the society as a whole. How does the individual’s behavior affect society? Depending on one’s inclination the answer to that question may differ. One says that the use of controlled substances is a personal matter that harms no one else and that the blight we blame on drug use is really caused by its criminalization. The other points to the family breakdown, neglect, accidents, and death related substance abuse. One argues that they’re going to do it anyway so we should take away the incentive for criminals to profit from it. The other says if we make it easy more will do it and society will be burdened by the side-effects.
The second perspective references a moral code. We recognize that not everything one might choose to do has a right or wrong to it, but we always apply the test. In so doing we often find that fewer things than one might expect will lead us back to a question of morality. Benefit to society is seen as flowing from the moral choice rather than dictating it.
The third I will call the sociopathic perspective. All of us must deal with it at some level. Because we are lawless by nature, we tend to favor those things that we think will benefit us the most. Often we cloak our selfish desires under the mantel of the other two. We may not even be conscious that we’re doing it. Remove a finite standard, and this is all we have left. Too often we take this with us to the polls, voting for that which seems most likely to give us what we want.
If we want it badly enough we’ll have it regardless of the consequences. We’ve all heard that prohibition didn’t work. I submit that it didn’t work because we really didn’t want it to work. I find it ironic that we’re headed in the same direction with marijuana, the smoking of which does far more damage than tobacco, while we continue to turn the screws on tobacco smokers.
As long as God permits flawed humanity to govern itself, we will not have satisfactory answers to these questions applied throughout our societies. There is only one measure by which our actions are rightly judged, and that is the truth. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Until He is the unquestioned king of this earth, all we can do is strive to see as much of His truth applied as possible under the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Our government was uniquely fashioned such that we are free to make that effort. It is not only our right, but our duty to make good use of this divine gift. If we do not apply it, even what we have will be taken from us (Matthew 25:14-29.)
How can a government designed by and for flawed human beings of diverse philosophies and beliefs be anything but flawed itself? If truth and justice must be submitted to a committee for approval, how will either survive? These are the kinds of questions that this staunch supporter of our American government and Constitution wrestles with. Our founders recognized the enormity of the task before them and did an excellent job of crafting a system of checks and balances that they imagined could keep human nature in check. Yet even they realized it was not really up to the task. John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
We get angry when our leaders compromise, but everything we have is built on compromise. Compromise is both the boon and the bane of any system that relies on democratic procedure. When the people can vote for what they want, the system only works when the people want what they should. Someone always loses, and if the majority turns their hearts to evil, it will be those on the side of truth. The fall of the society is not far behind, because whatever the prevailing belief system is, nations that neglect truth and justice eventually destroy themselves.
If I am to be ruled by men, I would prefer to live under a government where at least some mechanism exists to keep evil in check. Ours comes closer than anything that has gone before. If there is an argument against that statement it is God’s design for the nation of Israel before they demanded a king, but again that only worked when the people were willing to obey Him. The same is true for us, and that is the dilemma that confronts the Christian in our society. We stand for freedom, but that same freedom works just as well for the believer in lies as it does the believer in the truth. I say that in a political sense.
How far does our freedom go? The vast majority of us would agree that it is limited at minimum by things that would cause harm to others. We are all against murder, though some of us don’t seem to mind it too much as long as the victim is an innocent unborn child. We’re all against theft unless we can get the government to do it for us. Somehow it isn’t a crime anymore if we do not personally assault or even see the victim. We could free up a lot of jail space if we applied this principle uniformly.
What are we to do when the truth and the law are in conflict? We’re told to obey the law, but is that obedience unconditional? For example, does God require a Christian mother living in China to abort her second child because the law says she must? Where do we take a stand? I think that our founders would say it was long before now. Read The Declaration of Independence. This isn’t China, but if some among us have their way someday it could be.
I do not suggest we take up arms, but I do suggest that it is well past the time for the church to become unashamedly involved in government. Contrary to what you may have been taught, our Constitution does not forbid this. It only prevents government from establishing a national religion, understood at the time to refer to a particular sect of the Christian religion. I keep saying this because I believe it is essential to our survival. We have not only the right but the obligation as Christians to steward well the power afforded us by our Constitution. Stand for the truth, remembering always that the real solutions lie in the hearts of the people. Be involved in government from the local to the national, but always be ready with the message of the Gospel, where our true salvation is found.
When we talk about trust, do we have the same understanding of the word that God does when He says to trust Him? I think not. When we place some level of trust in another person, we believe that they have our best interests at heart. That’s good as far as it goes. That can certainly be said of God. People will break that trust, sometimes with evil intent. At other times it is just the result of imperfection. Since God can neither be dishonest nor imperfect, what can we conclude when it seems that He has broken our trust?
We can trust God completely, but we need an understanding of what that means. I think a more accurate definition of trust might be that the one in whom we are trusting is both able to and committed to do what he says he will do. We cannot trust that God will do what we believe to be in our best interests. We can trust Him to be true to His word and His nature.
My heart is heavy today for reasons I cannot share freely. lest anyone be alarmed Linda and I are fine. These are the thoughts going through my mind right now. This I do know. The Bible shows us over and over again that when God’s people turn to Him and call on His name, he rescues them. I cannot say what God will do specifically, but I can pray. I have seen His grace and mercy in my own life and in those of many i know. I have also seen Him take bad things and make good things from them. Whatever happens, I will trust Him. I am convinced that all may do the same.
However, I must make a point of the truth that this isn’t good news for everyone. Just as we can trust in His love, we must trust in His justice. We have all fallen short of the holiness that is required to live in the presence of God. We all must answer for all of the ways in which we have done so. The only hope for any of us is the sacrifice that Jesus made at the cross. His perfection paid for our sins. If we refuse to believe this; if we refuse to receive Him as lord of our lives, we can still expect that He will keep His word. It is my prayer that anyone reading this who has not yet believed will make the choice now. He does work everything together for the good of those who love him, who are called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28.) It may be that whatever trial you are facing was meant to draw you to Him. There is hope while you live.
What then is to be said to those of us who have believed and yet face evils from which we might have thought ourselves protected? Only that God will keep His word. Whatever this life brings it is only temporary. We may not know what God is doing, but we can anticipate the glorious end which awaits. We can rejoice in His goodness and thus draw others to wonder what gives us such strength. We can cling to our faith and the One who gave it to us. We can talk to Him in prayer and learn from the written word and His Holy Spirit. We can surround ourselves with others who strengthen us when we become discouraged. We can take the love that God has given to us and give it to others. His joy heals the pain.
Those are easy words to say, but to those who are hurting they are little more than words. It is my prayer that God will show me how to put action to them. I cannot imagine the pain that some of my friends have experienced. Though the truth remains the truth, the ways in which we speak and apply it can make all the difference in its effective communication. let love be first.
It amazes me that intelligent people embrace the idea that truth is a subjective concept. If you are one of those people, I would like to engage you directly. The modern trend is to compartmentalize religious belief, reducing its relevance to the realities of life. Yet most of us acknowledge God in some form. I’m not going to try to address atheism here. That requires a different treatment as a staunch atheist believes he knows the truth. I would speak to you who consider faith a personal matter with no absolutes. I freely admit that I hope to convince you that there is only one source of truth and ultimately that is the God described by the Christian Bible. However, that isn’t the main thrust of this entry. For now, I just want you to think about your beliefs logically.
When we speak of faith in religious terms it somehow becomes less substantial, yet even the Bible uses words such as substance and evidence to describe what faith is. It is no less real for being intangible. We put our faith in things and in people every day. Why should our faith in God be any different? In fact it should be the strongest faith we have, because He will never fail us. That’s not to say that He won’t disappoint us from time to time because being God he doesn’t always do what we think He should, but He has in mind the best for us that we usually cannot see. Yes, I’m now speaking out of my own faith. I wish I could say it does not waiver, but it often does. However, my certainty that truth remains is not shaken. It is faith in my ability to understand it that is really in question.
We have faith because we believe something to be true. It may be as simple as the certainty that the chair upon which you are about to sit will hold you up or as abstract as the trust you put in a person you believe to be of good character. It is when what we believe to be true turns out to be false that our faith is shaken.
How then can truth be relative? How can what is true and what is false vary from person to person? Would we apply this idea to any other area of our lives? If I may borrow a somewhat clichéd example, let’s say I believe the earth is flat. That works for me. It gives me comfort because if it’s flat and I stay away from the edge I can never fall off. It makes me happy to believe that. Is it true? What if I lack the means to prove that the earth is in fact round? Is it flat because I can’t prove it is round with the tools at my disposal?
Some things are admittedly a bit harder to prove, but let’s start by establishing that truth exists whether or not we know what it is. Without that basis, all other argument is worthless. If something is so just because I believe it and it doesn’t have to be so for anyone else, what is the point of discussion? In fact the very idea of relative truth is unsupportable because the idea itself cannot be deemed true. It’s a comforting illusion because it frees us from responsibility, but try that in a court of law.