Legislate Morality? 

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Of course morality can be legislated. More than that, morality must be legislated. We all believe it to be so. 

Consider theft: We demand our government protect our property and punish the thief because we know that it is immoral to steal. 

Consider murder: We demand our government punish the one who has taken a life because we know that it is immoral to commit murder (to take innocent life). 

Consider slavery: We demand our government protect our freedom because we know that it is immoral for one human to “own” or in any other way demean or trivialize the life of a fellow human being. Slavery did not come to an end due to mass conversions to Jesus Christ. It came to an end in this country because a war was fought and laws were made. 

According to Scripture, the purpose of government is not to save the lost but rather to restrain evil acts ( Romans 13:1-4). Whereas, spreading the heart-changing and life-saving message of the Gospel is the responsibility of every Christian (Matthew 28:19-20). But, we are also to be mindful of those who need to be defended (cf. Ps. 82:3-4; Prov. 24:11-12; 31:8-9; Isa. 1:17; et. al.). 

To the charge, “You can’t legislate morals,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. replied: “Well, there’s half-truth involved here. Certainly, if the problem is to be solved, then in the final sense, hearts must be changed. Religion and education must play a great role in changing the heart. But we must go on to say that while it may be true that morality cannot be legislated, behavior can be regulated. It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless. It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me but it can keep him from lynching me and I think that is pretty important also” (Western Michigan University—December 18, 1963).

Let us give thanks for the people and the laws that protect us. 

Let us pray that we might enjoy peace for many years on into the future. 

Let us pray, “for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:2).

Bart Warren
South Green Street church of Christ
Glasgow, KY

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