August 7 – What Is Legal vs What Is Right

what is legal what is right

At that time the prophets Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem. They prophesied in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jehozadak responded by starting again to rebuild the Temple of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them and helped them. (Ezra 5:1-2)

Read: Ezra 4:24-6:22, 1 Corinthians 3:5-23, Psalm 29:1-11, Proverbs 20:26-27

Relate: It was a hot day, blistering hot, but my sweating had just as much with me being nervous as it did with the heat. The door I walked through creaked as I walked through and up to the counter. There was no one else in the building except the short order cook on the other side and he expressed a bit of surprise when he saw me walk up and sit down.

“I would like a burger, fries, and a coke.” I was surprised my voice held steady when I ordered. There was no immediate answer. You could hear the fan lazily blowing near the restaurant’s entrance. The radio was playing softly and  “My True Story” could barely be heard past the static. Finally, after a tense moment, the cook responded. He was only a few years older than I was and his voice did crack when he said, “I’m real sorry boy. I didn’t make the rules but I do have to follow them if I want to keep my job. I can tell that you’re not from around here and maybe you can’t read but that sign says ‘Whites Only’. You can’t sit there.”

I looked at him for a second and then repeated my order. “I would like a burger, fries, and a coke.” Almost as soon as I finished speaking I could hear the door creaking open once again. I did not need to turn around to recognize the brisk business like steps as someone walked up behind me. The other customer sat down right next to me. You could see the poor cook’s eyes bug out when this guy put his arm around my shoulder and say, “I would like a burger, fries, and a coke.” I just grinned.

Before the cook was able to recover, Patsy started to walk through the door too. Then Ned walked in. After him came Teddy. As one person after another walked through that door, some white, most black, that poor cook’s jaw dropped a little closer to the floor. Finally he managed to close his jaw. I could hear him mumbling. “This is not good. Dear Lord in heaven, this is really not good.” You see, me and my friends were all criminals. In fact, we were criminals by choice. Each and every one of us hopped on a bus for a long ride to the South with the express purpose of breaking the law. Sometimes we have to obey a higher authority and God said these times… they are a changin.

React: Things were fine when the Israelites began to rebuild the Temple. They had the permission and the authority from the ruling authorities and had already laid the foundation before things changed. The ruler changed and those who didn’t like what they were doing took advantage of this to open up a case and get them shut down. When the work finally started back up, it did not happen because of an appealed or overturned verdict. Those building the Temple were in clear violation of the law when they resumed their work. They did not know what would happen. They did not know how things would turn out. This was a time and place where ruling authorities didn’t punish criminals with just a fine or maybe a few days in a prison cell. The people of Israel were literally putting their lives on the line when they chose to obey God rather than the laws of the land.

There has been a lot of hype in the political world lately. This past election in America gave us far more mud than is healthy and that vitriol being flung continues as our president and our news media have become more and more petty in their war against each other. On the other side of the pond the UK has rolled back the clock by narrowly passing Brexit and now many fear other countries are looking at that exit door and beginning to wonder. Here where I live things have been even more interesting with a failed coup followed by a 60,000 man roundup with even more threatening storm clouds on the horizon. That coup granted “emergency (read dictatorial) powers” many of which have been made permanent in this spring’s referendum. Even as the laws threaten, or actually do begin to change, let us not forget that this means nothing to the Christian. We are not called to obey the law, we are called to do what is right. Often the two are the same but even if they are not, what will we do? God’s purpose for our lives does not change with who sits in the Oval Office.

Respond: 

Dear God,
All I want is You. So often it is easy to get distracted by the noise of the chaos around me. Often I get bogged down in issues political or contemporary forgetting that in comparison to Your Kingdom they are little more than sound and fury, signifying nothing. Help me to keep my eyes on You. Even more help me to keep in step with You. Even if that means I am to walk the wrong way down a cultural or legal one way street, help me to follow You. Let me never forget that You are my only true authority.
Amen

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14 thoughts on “August 7 – What Is Legal vs What Is Right

  1. When the foundations are being destroyed,
    what can the righteous do?”
    The Lord is in his holy temple;
    the Lord is on his heavenly throne.
    He observes everyone on earth;
    his eyes examine them. Psalm 11:3,4

    This is the verse that keeps coming into my mind lately. With Trump actually a candidate for president the world seems upside down. But we need not worry. The Lord is still in his holy temple in charge of everything. Dark times may be ahead, but the Lord is our strength.

  2. Thank You for this post. 🙂 I’m a law student, and I am definitely struggling as a christian on which way to look at the laws. How do I stand firm on the word of God in dealing with all these man made laws (in which, some of them are absurd especially when it brings injustice). I thank you, because this post helps me become conscious of whatever I am learning and adopting as my ideology.

    • I retired from a 30-year legal practice, and there were times when following what was right and doing what my client wanted were in clear conflict. Never turn your back on what God tells us to do … His “laws”, the commandments, are absolute. While you might lose the client, you won’t betray your Savior..

  3. I am glad we only disagree on a few things because I admire your writing. I agree with the majority of your post today but am taking issue with your comment on Brexit. I am British by birth but emigrated to Canada. I was eligible to vote but didn’t because I don’t live there. However, if I did live there I should have voted to leave the EU and I know many strong, devout Christians who did vote that way. I wonder why you call it ‘rolling back the clock’?

    • Honestly, I can’t say I know much about the economic particulars with regards to Brexit but from what I saw the Brexit political campaign was run mainly on two platforms that I cannot agree with. 1) Keep the foreigners out. 2) We need to take care of ourselves, forget the rest of Europe.
      Both of these hark back to a strong nationalist/ethnocentric mindset that was at the root of the two world wars of the last century.

  4. From what I understand about Brexit, being American (so correct me if Im wrong) The politicians had their reasons and the common people had theirs. Most common people didnt want Britain turning into Germany where rape and other things from Syrian mercenaries hiding in the refugee ranks are obliterating Europe. That info is from chatting online with a young British man. I have no idea how true that may be. And the ease of ability to move from one E.U. country to another makes it impossible to deal with the criminal element and the job issues. I feel for the whole situation and I wont deny that Im glad its one less thing I have to deal with at present. Nationalism is making a giant come back. Hopefully Christians wont place nationalism in front of the teachings of Christ. Great read. T.y.

  5. Thanks for this post, BJ. It was well written and to the point. Your comment “the remaining choices for the highest office in the land have been as bad as they ever were in living memory” is poignant and makes clear the dilemma for those voting in the fall.

  6. Continuing the Thought:

    I know that killing people is wrong, but in war that is not always avoidable. But what should a soldier do when a commander orders the slaughter of every man woman and child in a city? What if the commander said that he is only following commands from his commander, and that his commander is only following orders from the God of the Universe who commanded that exact thing. Not all commands are good, and declaring an authority good in all things does nothing to erase atrocities ordered by that authority.

    1 Samuel 15:3

  7. Amen, Amen, Amen. Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den for praying. The three Hebrew children were thrown into the fiery furnace for refusing to worship an idol. Jeremiah was thrown into a miry dungeon for telling the truth. What matters is not what the law says – but what Jesus Christ King of Kings and Lord or Lord says. He is always right.

  8. Thank you again for this post. God knows us in our hearts, mind and soul. To close ourselves to him is to close ourselves to life everlasting (and I’m not implying the ‘ I will live forever kind’). Choosing to do what is right by him when it may be in conflict with human wishes is an act of profound faith. As God speaks to me through other people, I am going to give them a good listen, but it is God I must answer to in my heart. The power of love and creation can repair destruction, but the power of hatred and destruction can not repair love.

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