By Nick McDowell
At this time my town has already been participating in early voting for local representatives and state-wide issues for several weeks. I believe the last few years have opened many eyes to the importance and impact of local and state legislation. This post is not about legislating morality. I have heard and agree that one cannot legislate morality. Such an understanding complements a Christian worldview. Laws, even good laws, do not make people or society righteous. The Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Rome argues this very thing.
What is troubling to me is that under the guise of this argument, there are people who dismiss certain laws and issues as having little impact on the morality of a culture or society. After all, if we can’t legislate morality, then who are we to judge whether a law is “good” or not? If it's not impacting me directly, what does it matter? In this mindset, laws would technically be viewed in a neutral way. There is no doubt that some laws have lesser impact than others, but we know full well that there are many laws that are in no way “neutral.”
The Christian faith at its foundation argues that we cannot become a good person simply by obeying laws, even good laws. Our righteousness comes “apart from law…through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” (Romans 3:21-22). We can only be justified (made right) when we receive Christ’s forgiveness made available through His death and resurrection. That’s it. Full stop.
This doesn’t mean that the law God put together for Israel serves no purpose even to this day. While we cannot legislate morality, the laws we grow up with certainly shape a culture. The same Paul that declared righteousness comes through faith in Jesus only, also stated that the Old Testament law was still valuable in helping to shape his worldview. Paul writes in Romans 7:7 “Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law.” Laws are influential because they communicate to us a standard. What is acceptable and what is not? There were principles established by God throughout the law under Moses, fulfilled by Jesus, that pointed out clear boundaries and expectations for how to live life. These laws created a foundation for a society that would prosper IF these principles were followed.
In light of this, it is troubling to see so many people in the Church who choose not to vote, dismiss current issues, or stick their head in the sand on anything and everything “political.” By turning a blind eye, we allow the enemy to continually gain or hold ground in the realm of law. Make no mistake, what our children and grandchildren see as “legal” will form their understanding of what is righteous and good. In people’s minds, making something legal makes it acceptable. Little by little the enemy uses things like law to chip away at our moral compass.
Our laws are just one part of an interconnected puzzle that influence the moral compass of our country. While a movie, TikTok personality, or news article may portray something wrong in a positive light, a judge or legislative body placing their stamp of approval on it, making it legal, validates the wrong. It becomes the “law of the land” and this inevitably has the ability to drastically change a public’s perception on any given issue.
Look at same-sex “marriage”. Gay and lesbian relationships have been in existence for thousands of years and certainly for the hundreds of years the United States has existed as a country. But in the U.S., these relationships were not deemed as good or acceptable by society as a whole until recently. In the mid to late 20th century more and more movies and tv shows began portraying these relationships in a positive light. Public opinion was still overwhelmingly against legalizing any kind of same-sex union at the turn of the century. But
it was at this time, in 2000, that the first legal shoe dropped. The state of Vermont legalized civil unions between same-sex partners. In 2004, Massachusetts legalized gay “marriage”. In an article from pewresearch.org[i], that same year, roughly 2/3 of the U.S. population still viewed same-sex marriage in a negative light. But in 2015, the other shoe dropped as the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling officially declared same-sex marriage as being constitutional. Skip ahead to 2022 and 61% of Americans believed same-sex marriage had a positive impact. In the course of two decades, the numbers had flip-flopped. One last statistic stands out: In 2022, 64% of Republicans from ages 18-29 believed same-sex “marriage” being legal was good, while only 30% from ages 65+ believed the same. Could the fact that most of these young adults grew up in an era where parts of the U.S. had put their legal stamp of approval on same-sex “marriage”?
When something has been legal long enough, coupled with media and state educated influences, it can quickly shift someone’s point of view. For those who are younger, what have they known? That Same-Sex Marriage is legal. As a parent I have the responsibility to reflect Christ to my son and making sure he knows the truth. This doesn’t take away from the challenge of explaining to my young son how something sinful and destructive in God’s eyes is legal and glorified by our society.
What I am encouraging my fellow Christians to do is understand that laws passed on the local, state, and federal level, do have a moral impact on our culture and the lives of future generations. The problem in the United States is that we often do not have laws that reflect the principles established in Scripture. On the contrary, we have laws that are in direct opposition to the standards and boundaries established by God. This should be concerning for Christian citizens of any nation.
Even the recently-elected Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, who has been outspoken about his Christian faith, said this: "I am a rule-of-law guy. I made a career defending the rule of law. I respect the rule of law. When the Supreme Court issued the Obergefell opinion, that became the law of the land."[ii] Here we clearly see how the legality of an issue has impacted one’s point of view. Even someone who claims a Christian faith. Should Christians really defend and respect laws that are clearly contrary to God’s standards? Should we not try to overturn and change laws that are in opposition to a biblical worldview?
The state of Ohio is voting on an issue that would make abortion legal up to birth and opens the doors for gender transitions for minors without parental consent. There are many troubling things about this issue and yet there are Christians who will inevitably not vote, OR vote in favor of the issue, citing “privacy” and “personal freedoms” amongst other reasons. As a Christian, a pastor, and a father, I cannot wrap my mind around how someone who professes Christ could either passively or actively support this issue.
Here are a list of things I believe are important for Christians to understand as it relates to all of the things mentioned above:
1) The “political” is never just political. For those Christians who simply want to stay away from politics, I understand. But you must understand that the “political” issues of the day are moral issues. Votes on abortion, parental rights, and LGBTQ issues are not “political”, they are moral issues that have real spiritual consequences on the current and future generations of our country. We cannot stay on the sidelines when it comes to these issues and legislation related to them.
2) The faithful Christian does not compartmentalize his/her life. I see Christians attempt to separate their life into different sections. We take a “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” mentality. The movies I watch, music I listen to, how I invest my time or money, or how I vote, has nothing to do with my faith. I can worship the Lord on Sunday and live however I feel like the rest of the week. This is a lie from the enemy. When Jesus teaches His followers to “Be perfect [holy], therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48), this was not a call to only pursuit holiness on Sunday. Paul writes in Romans 12:1-2 that we are to “offer [our] bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” We are called to be different, to be honoring God in all aspects of our life. In this context, how we vote matters. There is no perfect candidate and every piece of legislation has its flaws. Shouldn’t we want to align ourselves with candidates and laws that most align with God’s principles in Scripture? What business do we have supporting legislation or candidates that support abortions or minors having surgeries to attempt to alter that which God purposefully created? How you vote is NOT distinct from your faith, it is a REFLECTION of your faith.
3) Privacy is not a value emphasized in Scripture. One of the ads promoting the abortion issue in Ohio highlighted a “pastor” (one I would say is apostate) stating that a woman’s decision to abort her baby is a private decision between her and her doctor. Does sin become acceptable if it’s private? Is any action, sinful or righteous, ever a private matter? Our choices are never made in a vacuum. Does a private affair not contribute to the destruction of a marriage? Does a private business decision that involves theft or embezzlement not destroy someone financially? And does a private decision by a woman to kill her child not bring destruction to both her and her child? There is nothing in Scripture that permits sin in the name of privacy. Our private choices have public consequences. More importantly, our private choices have eternal consequences. Shame on this so-called shepherd for promoting sin and destruction in the name of “privacy.” Not only is he wrong, but he is deceiving others into going down a path of destruction. Privacy is not emphasized or lifted up in Scripture. However, obedience, holiness, sacrifice, truth and love (as GOD defines it) certainly are.
4) Choice is not a justification for destruction. God gave us free will. He has given humanity agency to make choices and so we make choices every day. Good choices and bad choices. Each choice leads to another. God gave the Israelites boundaries and standards to live by and consequences if those boundaries and standards were violated. I heard an interesting statistic on a study that dealt with addiction. 98% of the things that happen in our life are the result of our own decisions and only 2% are things out of our control. Nearly all pregnancies in this country are the result of a man and woman making a consensual decision to have sex. When I hear about someone having the “right” to choose, more than 9 times out of 10 they have already made their choice, they were given the ability to choose, and they chose an action that they knew full well could result in pregnancy. How can we as Christians continue to support laws that not only promote innocent babies being killed, but also promote a sexually immoral lifestyle? People already have the agency to choose. When they choose sin, there are consequences. I should also add that from a biblical standpoint there is no exception for abortion in cases of rape or incest. This could be it's own post, but the bottom line is that when a woman has been sinned against, the Christian response should not be to endorse more sin and destroy another life.
5) People are not good. We need deterrents. It amazes me how many Christians today still believe people are generally good. First of all, Scripture is clear that everyone has sinned (Romans 3:23), the “righteous” of Jesus’ day, the Pharisees, were constantly called out for their sins by Jesus, and even men like Moses and David were guilty of murder. Second, just read a history book if you need to be reminded of how “good” humanity is. Not everyone is a Hitler, but Hitler didn’t rise to power without the help and support of everyday people. God understands the destruction of sin and this is why he had firm and just consequences in his law for committing sins. The consequences were in place so God’s people wouldn’t commit them. So they would avoid that judgement. Did some of God’s people still violate those standards? Yes. However, if those consequences didn’t exist, there would have been even more destruction, murder, adultery, etc. It’s called a deterrent, and it is a form of God’s grace. When we want to do something wrong, yet we know there will be a serious consequence, we are less likely to commit it. We are deterred from acting on our thoughts. God didn’t want to see someone put to death, but if the standard for murdering someone was less, then murders would be more prevalent.
When Roe v. Wade was overturned in 2023, there was an immediate reduction in abortions. According to a Time article, “In the six months since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, there were 5,377 fewer abortions on average per month…”[iii] This is something to celebrate. Both for the babies born and the women bearing them. Legislation rooted in biblical principles acted as a deterrent from committing sin. Another example is to look at recent crime rates in San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland. Crime has skyrocketed in those areas over the past few years because there are little to no consequences for the crimes committed. They have changed their laws and the result has been devastating. Did people become more sinful? No. But people respond to laws that have severe consequences that are actually enforced. They are deterred from committing them. Once abortion became legalized in the 1970s, the numbers of abortions increased dramatically. The arguments for “female empowerment” and “personal freedom” are simply cover for endorsing sin. Because of our bad laws, there are no deterrents and sin runs rampant.
6) Laws that bring consequences for sinful, destructive choices are LOVING.
God is a loving God. The Israelites were His chosen people and He provided laws that would help them to prosper. God put in place a perfect law that balanced the severity of the crime with the severity of the punishment. As stated above, God brought heavy consequences for destructive actions so His people wouldn’t follow through on those actions. He wanted them to be motivated and directed to experience a better relationship with Him, instead of being separated from Him by their sin. Hebrews 12:6 reminds us that “the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” God disciplines out of love. In the grand scheme of eternity, it’s better for people to experience consequences here on earth for their sins, learning from them, than for them to live thinking it’s acceptable because it’s “legal.” Such thinking leads to a slippery slope into hell. This is actually loving, not vindictive. As Christians we must be willing to point out someone’s sin in the hopes that they will turn away from it and pursue Christ. It takes both grace and truth to bring redemption.
You might disagree with some of what has been shared. Please hear my heart. When a shepherd sees many in the flock being deceived and wandering away from THE shepherd, some redirecting needs to occur. I have seen many troubling things coming from the church over the past few years and I believe spiritual leaders must speak out. Our laws will not save us. Only Jesus can. But it does not mean that our laws and those we elect do not play a role in shaping our society.
Our legislation and leadership help create a society that can either reflect principles that more closely resemble either God’s truth or the world’s lies. Our laws matter. Can you be a Christian in a country with terrible laws? Yes. Does this mean that the Christian just accepts it and makes no attempt to bring change or take a firm stand? That’s not what the abolitionists did in this country. They saw legislation for what it was and spoke out against it. That movement was spearheaded by Christians. We must speak out against sexually immoral laws, abortion, and any other issues that are clearly opposed to God’s standards and principles. We should support candidates who most align with the principles we find in Scripture. And we must remember that this is NOT about supporting a specific party, but about being a faithful witness. When we cast a vote on an issue or a candidate, it is a reflection of our faith. If we are going to truly love those who have no relationship with Christ, we have to speak the truth. To support things that God opposes doesn’t just undermine our relationship with Him, but it undermines our witness to others. Good laws matter. May the Church be bold in the coming days to take a stand on what is right, and desire a country whose laws and leadership reflect a biblical worldview.
Cited References: [i] https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2022/11/15/about-six-in-ten-americans-say-legalization-of-same-sex-marriage-is-good-for-society/ (accessed 10/26/23)
[ii] https://www.theblaze.com/news/mike-johnson-defends-christian-faith Speaker Mike Johnson refuses to apologize for his Christian faith after new backlash: 'I am a Bible-believing Christian' by CHRIS ENLOE, OCTOBER 27, 2023 [iii] https://time.com/6270530/abortion-rates-post-roe/ KELSEY BUTLER/BLOOMBERG APRIL 11, 2023 1:00 PM EDT Legal Abortions Down by 96% in States With Most Restrictions Since the End of Roe