Thou Shalt Not Command

I am baffled as to why so many western Christians feel like they should dictate laws according to their religious beliefs.  Well, I’m not really baffled…

As a Christian, I do not force my religion on someone who has not freely chosen it.  Let me give you a biblical example to back that up.  Luke 18 tells the story of the rich young ruler.  He asks God what he must do to inherit eternal life.  Blah blah blah he kept all the commandments and did all the right things.  Then Jesus asked him to sell all he had, give it to the poor and come follow him.  The rich young ruler left sad.  And Jesus let him leave.  He didn’t chase after him saying,”NO!  Come back here and do as I say!”.  He let him leave.  So why do Christians run after ‘heathens’ and tell them what to do?  Is that biblical?  I’d suggest not.  It seems to be totally unfair, and definitely unbiblical to apply Christians ‘rules’ to people who haven’t chosen Christianity.  As a Christian, I don’t want anyone telling me to do things that conflict with my beliefs.  I didn’t choose Islam, so I don’t want a Muslim telling me to abide by their religious beliefs.  Therefore, I shouldn’t do the same to them.

I heard someone say the other day that Julia Gillard was someone we shouldn’t vote for because she’s an atheist and she lives with her partner, which is unbiblical.  If you disagree with her politics, sure, don’t vote for her, but don’t not vote for her because she’s an atheist.  She is living according to the moral code she believes to be correct.  She lives with integrity (meaning she lives according to what she believes is right.  What you think of her politics is a different matter).  She hasn’t chosen Christianity, therefore I don’t think the standards of Christianity should be applied to her.  It’s not fair and it’s not right.  She can still make decisions based on ideas and beliefs that are in line with Christian values without having to call it that.  If we are all made in the image of God (and we are), then there will undoubtedly be parts of everyone that reflect God and his values, whether we label it that way or not.  The writers of the Bible are often quoting non-Jewish/Christian poets and philosophers because they are talking about the things of God, they just aren’t calling it ‘God’.

In the same way, there are things that are done in the name of God that I disagree with.  Just because someone does something in the name of God, doesn’t make it right or good.  If I see a Christian political party and don’t vote for them, does that make me a bad Christian?  Not at all.  I just disagree with the way they are interpreting the Bible and putting it into practice.  There are policies Tony Abbott has that I disagree with, even though he says they are based on Christian values and that they line up with his beliefs.  That doesn’t make me unchristian.

So you disagree with someone?  Ok, live by the standards you believe in.  That is all God requires of you.  Micah 6:8:

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.”

That is what God requires of us.  Not to harass those you disagree with and make them abide by Christian standards.  Once again, use Jesus as your model.  He never did it.

Having said that, of course it is a positive and Godly thing to promote God’s values in the world.  Sometimes it is a matter of life and death that we do!  We ought to lobby for those things we believe in, such as justice for the poor and marginalised, compassion in our dealings with everyone, justice for victims of crime, care for God’s creation, etc.  Where I think we ought to draw the line is legislating those things which are specific to Christianity which others have not freely chosen.

This is clearly a topic with many grey areas.  I am not pretending it is black and white.  It certainly isn’t.  There are many things that are not simply the choice of one person, one person’s actions can affect others greatly, and these are things we must be careful of.  But I think perhaps western Christianity goes too far at times in demanding that people who have not Chosen Christianity, follow its rules.  I do not see a biblical mandate for this at all.  In fact, I see quite the opposite.


9 Replies to “Thou Shalt Not Command”

  1. One of these grey areas is that those we vote into power who live by a moral code which is very different or opposing to the Christian principles we live by, is that their belief system can influence what is put into law in our country. We are giving them the power to control us and what we are “allowed” to believe and act. This will happen gradually with the more we are willing to give up. This is a concern to me because I have lived long enough to see it taking place.

    1. Yes, but I’m not sure it’s that clear cut all the time. There are Christians I disagree with more than non-Christians at times. Therefore I think it’s right for our vote to go to those who uphold our values, not just those who call it Christian. Sometimes those things coincide, and I love when they do, but they don’t always. And to not vote for someone just because they don’t call it Christian I think is a mistake.

      I am yet to see a law that forbids me from practicing anything I believe is right, but I have seen laws that stop others from doing what they think is right, and I don’t think it’s fair for them to be dictated to by those who disagree.

      Although once again, I know there are many, many, many grey areas.

  2. I used to agree with you entirely, until I realised that the majority of decisions I disagree with in politics are of a moral nature ie abortion laws in Victoria. Therefore, I’m far more likely to vote in somebody who shares my beliefs over someone who does not.

    Having said that, I wouldn’t not vote for somebody simply because of their faith, but it would be a strong factor. But I don’t think it is wrong to vote for people based on their moral standing, as they will usually change their policies the moment they step into office. Is it wrong to want your moral code enforced by government? It is the way you want society to look like, after all. If not yours, then whose should take precedence?

  3. I totally agree with you Luke. I meant that it’s not right to force others to abide by your religion. That is not always the same thing as your moral code. Although it can be.
    I tried to make a distinction in my original post about laws that affect more than just the one person. Abortion is a tricky one for most people in that it’s about one person, or is it about two, or is it about three? In my opinion, it’s actually about three. The mother, father, and the unborn child. This is where one person’s decision impacts on others. The unborn child gets no say in a matter that is literally life and death. I am also against abortion. This is a law that needs to be in place to protect the vulnerable who have no voice.
    And on this particular issue, neither candidate would make it illegal, so it’s not really something you can vote on.

    I really mean that just because something is labelled ‘Christian’, doesn’t make it so, and vice versa.

  4. me, I was staggered that in a “progressive” Anglican church in Carlton someone stood up and bore witness praying for “Muslims to be helped from their errant ways” (this in the context of how to deal with/can you live with/marry people of other faiths and beliefs).
    that nobody blinked at that was the main reason I never went back there again.
    Churches depend on pluralistic societies and this sort of nonsense gets tolerated.

  5. When I used to work in the secular world I used to have a workmate who was quite open about his particular lifestyle choices. In his mind he was out proving his manhood. I didn’t overtly judge or condemn him, but he knew that I was a Christian and accused me of imposing my beliefs on him, when all I said was that I chose not to live the same way as him.

    In my book, having to listen to him and some of my other workmates swapping stories about their private lives could also be thought of as imposing as well.

    1. There is a difference between him doing what he chooses and affronting you with it verbally. Choice doesn’t mean flaunting. I think it’s a mutual respect thing. If we want to practice what we choose, that doesn’t mean we get to constantly go on about it to other people, just like they shouldn’t do to us. I hope that makes sense.

  6. Yes, I understand your point. Put another way, I’d say if you choose to live that way that’s your business, but don’t go around flaunting it. You make your bed, you lay in it. This individual was the subject of office gossip, but he wore it like a badge of pride.

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