Can Morality Be Legislated?

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It’s often said, “You can’t legislate morality.” Let’s examine this from two angles. 

On one hand . . . .

A society must have laws that uphold high moral standards. How would you like to live in a land with no laws against murder, theft, bribery, perjury, rape, child abuse, etc.?

God saw fit to legislate the morality of Israel, with appropriate penalties for infractions of these standards—in some cases capital punishment.

Israel’s government was the only true theocracy—a nation whose laws were directly decreed by God. Other than that one exception, God delegates the enactment and enforcement of laws to civil government (Romans 13:7). Legislating morality for their citizenry is one of the necessary functions of a just government.

As Paul wrote, “. . . the law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers and mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching . . .” (1 Timothy 1:9-10).

On the other hand . . . .

While government can and should legislate morality and penalties for violations, no law code can make anyone do right. Those who obey or disobey the law are making a free will choice in either case.

For those who disregard the law, even if they “get away with it,” God will eventually call them to account on the Day of Judgment (Romans 2:1-16).

It is the power of the gospel of Christ that can truly transform from the inside out the thinking and behavior of all who submit their will to God’s.

Some do not violate the law because they fear such consequences as jail time, fines, or public embarrassment.

And yet what God desires most is not mere outward compliance, but a sincere desire to please Him and live in harmony with His good will.

Conclusion 

Genuine Christians make the best citizens, not only because they are law-abiding, but because they seek the glory of God and the welfare of others.

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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