While the “rule of law” is necessary for a free and just society, it can also devolve into the means of tyranny and oppression. The moment the law in this rule of law does not reflect God’s law, that same moment you will begin to see tyranny: whether through the legally-protected oppression of one man against another, one group over another, or of the state against man. Here’s how it can happen:
Abortion activist Jason Sanchez was passing out Abolish Abortion literature in Huntingdon Beach, CA. Naturally, someone called the cops. When they showed up, a cordial conversation ensued, and the police protected the Abolitionists’ right to free speech. But things got a little uncomfortable when Jason began exhorting these officers—at least one a professing Christian—to know their biblical role as lesser magistrates who should interpose to help stop injustice, including abortion.
God’s law must come first for the Christian, right? Sure! But the officer began to waffle:
JS: “We ask that law enforcement officers interpose on behalf of those that are being downtrodden.”
Officer: “Well, we can only enforce the laws that are on the books, and that’s it.”
JS: “But as a Christian, you are held to a higher standard—God’s law. And abortion’s murder.”
Officer: “I got to pay for my health insurance, and my wife, and my kids, and my mortgage.”
Watch the interaction:
There’s a fundamental problem when the sacred “rule of law” is used as a screen to exonerate oneself from responsibility—indeed, Christian duty. While the rule of law is absolutely necessary for peace and freedom, it is nevertheless the means of tyranny the very moment the laws don’t reflect God’s law. At that point, “rule of law” can be nothing but dishonoring to God and robbing humanity of basic rights.
In this particular case, it is the unborn who suffer, while our magistrates hide behind, “it’s the law.” At the same time, they reveal that their ultimate concern is their own paycheck.
The same problem occurs when you have bad laws actively enforced. Consider this incident from a few years ago. A group of libertarian activists protested a wave of incidents in which police shut down lemonade stands run by children in small town neighborhoods, due to excessive regulations, zoning ordinances, etc. The group protested by holding a very loud lemonade sale on the White House lawn, making a show of it until the police hauled them off in handcuffs.
Whatever your judgment of the stunt itself, out of it came a gem in regard to the mindset of “rule of law” and “just doing my job” policing. One of the officers, an African American, seen near the end of the video was engaged concerning why he would enforce obviously tyrannical laws. One of the activists asked him,
“Segregation was around in the 50s. Would you enforce that law?”
The black officer shrugged it off at first, “Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be a officer back then at that time. . . .”
But then the shock came, as he continued: “If I was, I would enforce it, though.”
“You would enforce it?”
“You would enforce the segregation laws?”
“I don’t make the laws, I just enforce them, sir. Your squabble is not with the police; it’s with the lawmakers.”
Again, watch it:
When the mindset of our officers—and indeed of people in general—is that the law must enforced at all costs, no matter what, unquestioningly, then we have lost a vital part of what it means to be Christians, and even historically Americans.
When we elevate obedience to the law and enforcement of the law to this blind, unquestioning level, we have made it an idol. This idolatry of “the rule of law” leaves Christians in every age vulnerable to approving holocausts, unjust wars, chattel slavery, racism, and much more. In our own day, we have seen Christians standing idly by watching—and even actively encouraging—police brutality against abortion protesters (Operation Rescue). John MacArthur had a key role in this (more on that later).
Instead, Christians ought to be the first to judge every law (i.e. “all things”—1 Cor. 2:15) against God’s law and determine whether it is just or not. If it is not, then it becomes a question of whether obeying it will violate God’s law or conscience.
For the Christian, the “rule of law” must be the rule of God’s law. Christian magistrates and officials will be held to higher standards in this regard as well: for them, the enforcement of law ought to comply with God’s law as well. If imposing the law would violate God’s law, or would protect those who do, a set of tough decisions needs to be made. Either get out of the job, or refuse to perform that part of it upon pains of whatever consequence may be.
Whatever you do, don’t hide behind “just doing my job” as a justification for violating God’s law, imposing violence unnecessarily, or protecting those who do.