Can morality be legislated?

Hey, thanks again for sending in questions related to our recent sermons. As you know, we’re going through the Book of Ephesians, and we’ve entitled our series inclusion then Action, because that is the order of the Book of Ephesians and is the order, really of how Christianity works. This last Sunday, we talked about first we have an experience of grace, the first three chapters of Ephesians. Then as a result, we behave differently. We’re changed.

We’re made new from the inside, and that has implications for how we act in the world. It’s a kind of completely different path toward behavior change as opposed to what we normally find in the world, which is a type of moral enforcement, really making people comply to a certain pattern of behavior, whether we are parents or entire societies. Of course we have to do that. We have to teach morality. We kind of have to fence the people that we’re responsible for.

We kind of have to fence them in to point them in a direction with their behavior. But even if we get somebody to behave in a certain way, even if we get them to act Christianly, that doesn’t mean that they’re actually Christians. Christians become Christians through a radical experience of God’s grace, accepting Christ’s substitution on their behalf. That rewires everything inside of us, and then we act differently. So the question this week is, can morality be legislated?

I said in the sermon that maybe every other religion in the world you could enforce through legislation. You can enforce behavior through legislation. We do that as parents on a small scale. Right? We enforce certain behavior.

But can a society do it? Can a society legislate morality? And really, the answer is, that’s what laws are like. Laws enforce somebody’s morality. You think about, you can’t steal, you can’t harm others, you need to honor the terms of a contract.

All of those are moral questions that are built into our legal system. It’s somebody’s morality. And you could think different countries or different time periods of world history, different moralities are enforced, and you can see that through different laws that people have. You even think about traffic laws in our country, that’s enforcing somebody’s morality. Right.

You can’t leave the scene of an accident. If you run into somebody else’s car, you are responsible to pay for it. Right. And the courts will make that happen. That’s actually not the case in every other country of the world.

Even now, you might have visited some of them. Some countries, it seems traffic laws are just chaos, right? You can run into another car. You have kind of three designated lanes or enough room for three designated lanes of traffic. But really there’s like twelve lanes of traffic all moving in that direction and people are scraping up against each other.

There’s going to be no enforcement if you bump into somebody else’s car. Right. And what does that say? It’s a different morality that a country like that isn’t placing as much value on personal property rights.

We have a different morality here that we’re enforcing, and we do it through legislation. So, yeah, of course legislation can enforce morality. In fact, that’s exactly what legislation is. It’s enforcing somebody’s morality. But again, the point of the sermon, or what the message of Christianity is, is even if you kind of corner somebody into behaving a certain way, that’s not what Christianity is.

That’s not how Christianity works. Christianity isn’t about forcing someone to behave a certain way first. It’s about internal experience of grace that changes who we are. Not that there aren’t behavioral expectations in Christianity. But you’re putting the cart before the horse, right?

You’re talking about sequence, and the sequence is 1st. 1st inclusion, later action as a result of inclusion. Okay, so hope that helps. Thanks for the question and we will see you next time. Bye.