Fines, military ordinances, police and army patrolling the streets – this is the reality we have suddenly found ourselves living in. It is a tightening reality, a rigid corset-like structure of rules.
Any discussion about ordinances, especially military ordinances, rules and obligations, give rise to opposition. People are questioning the government’s decision to enforce these regulations and wondering why they could not implement more peaceful solutions. Why should those in power decide for us, when we are the ones who know what is best for us? After all, we are the ones who take the risk, who suffer, who get sick and possibly die. We are tired of staying at home. We are tired of doing what others want us to do.
Why do we need rules?
I am not an advocate of anarchy. On the contrary, I believe that nothing works properly without rules and laws. We need them. Even if some are crooked, they can be straightened, and even if some are unjust, they can be changed. But living without them is impossible.
Anyone who is part of an association of any kind—friendship, marriage, business, communities, organisations, states, multinational companies—knows that nothing works without rules. You cannot do whatever you want without consequences. For things to go well, they need to be regulated. When things are regulated correctly, and when everyone follows the rules, they work.
As for exceptional circumstances, they require exceptional approaches. We may not like them, but we need to accept them. The key question is how much trust we have in those whose responsibility it is to carry out these measures. Their ability to effectively communicate the need for such measures is important as well. Believing that breaking the law will have no consequence, however, is dangerous.
Freedom in the law, and the God of love
The Holy Scripture says that God’s main characteristic, His essence, is love (1 John 4: 8). John is not writing from an emotional perspective, about an artificial glow which we have mistaken for love. Rather, he speaks of an eternal reality, upon which the whole universe rest. A love that lasts, creates, and remains constant.
The Scripture does not state that God is forgiveness, although He forgives; it does not state that God is knowledge, although He is Omniscient. Power does not define Him, despite His Omnipotence. God defines Himself as love.
God rules over the universe according to certain principles; fundamental and constant laws. Love is the fundamental law of life and love itself springs from the very heart of God. There cannot be love without freedom. We learn this as we study relationships of love between people.
Let us imagine that after dating for some time, a man invites his girlfriend to a special restaurant. He makes sure the atmosphere is just right, then kneels and asks her to marry him. The girl realises the importance of the decision and asks for a few moments to reflect. Her hesitation makes him feel insecure. He gets upset, and puts his hand in his pocket, pulls out a gun, and demands that she make the “right decision”! Such a reaction to her uncertainty will only generate fear, repulsion, disgust, and finally rebellion. She will want to leave as fast as she can, and get as far away from him as possible.
This is the law of freedom. Whenever freedom is violated, there are three predictable consequences: (1) love deteriorates and will eventually be destroyed; (2) desire to revolt takes root inside heart, and if freedom is still not within reach, then (3) individuality is gradually destroyed and the person becomes only a shadow.
God’s standard is our spiritual weapon
If you violate freedom, love will always suffer—in the end, it will be destroyed. There is no love without freedom. This law is neither voted, nor dictated. It is one of the fundamental principles of the universe, one which we were designed to operate by.
This standard is one of the spiritual weapons we can use to defend ourselves against evil. Paul the Apostle shows us the nature of the “moral pandemic” we are in:
“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10: 3-5).
We are, in fact, struggling against anything that prevents us from knowing God. This struggle concerns the truth about God and His character. Is God reliable? Satan has spread lies about God, and these lies have broken the chain of love and trust. Love and lies cannot coexist. Therefore, only war against lies restore trust and reopen the channels of love.
God created man in His own image and likeness, not as a mere shadow of Him. That is why salvation does not mean transforming man into a shadow of God but restoring the image of God within humans.
Restoring our image of Him
Deeply rooted in our brains, there may be false beliefs and thoughts which cause our minds to poorly perceive, and misinterpret, the experiences we go through. These experiences reinforce distorted perspectives, which fuel more harmful emotions and beliefs, as this cycle is repeated. At the same time, the mind also has a tendency to neglect, or even reject, positive experiences that could invalidate these false beliefs.
Truth enters the mind through reasoning, so it is essential that we expose ourselves those things that strengthen our ability to think rationally.
It is vital that we clarify our misconceptions about God: Is He someone we need to fear, or is He as Jesus revealed Him to be? This is a question each of us must answer, because choosing to worship a deity who does not appreciate freedom would be a questionable choice, to say the least.
The cross is the purest demonstration of God’s feelings towards sinners. Here, we find that Jesus was not a helpless victim, like the two thieves crucified along His side. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18), Jesus said. He is the Creator, the King of Heaven and Earth. He could have turned those who mocked and tormented Him to dust, but this thought never crossed His mind. In fact, He rebuked Peter for striking off the ear of one of those who had come to capture Him: “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and He will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? ” (Matthew 26:53).
However, His incredible love shined through when, in the midst of the abuse He was suffering, He did not think once about hurting those who were hurting Him.
“Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” it is said. We know this does not apply to Jesus. He has proved beyond any doubt that He can be trusted not to abuse power, because He never uses it for His personal interest. He is an extraordinary God, who chose to let others kill Him, rather than use His power to stop them. There is unconditional freedom in our God because He has proven that we are safe when He has the power.
Love only resides where there is freedom. God is love, and He presents the truth with love by letting us decide freely. If love was torn apart when lies replaced the truth about God, then only truth can heal: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
The unfortunate truth is, we do not like laws or ordinances, especially divine ones, because we feel that they will limit our freedom. There is a conflict between what we want and what God’s law stipulates, so we are at a crossroads. We need to look at what happens as the result of different perspectives on God’s divine law.
Approaches to the divine law
The Lawyer’s Perspective—The lawyer searches for any loophole in God’s law to justify his own desires and choices.
Prosecutor’s Perspective—The prosecutor enthusiastically and relentlessly searches for evidence needed to prosecute. They have a sense of justice, and they defend the law, although they do not always respect it. After all, they are the ones who apply the law, and this makes them diligent researchers of God’s law—detecting the speck in the eyes of others.
Judge’s Perspective—The judge interprets divine law and imposes it on others. No one asks them to judge, but they do it anyway. They imagine they have this duty as divine calling, but what they forget is that those who judge will be judged the same way.
The Lawmaker’s Perspective—Some consider themselves empowered to decide what God’s laws are and consider themselves entitled to change God’s word. Their audacity is actually fuelled by an opposition to God.
Different attitudes, but the same stubbornness to God’s law. We long to be free, to do what we want. Sadly, we have too often been told that God is unjust, demanding, even mischievous, and this has distorted our image of Him.
Although simply keeping the laws of a country does not make you a citizen of that country, a citizen of any state must respect the laws of that state. God offers salvation only to those who want, and will freely choose, to become citizens of His Kingdom. It is too valuable a gift to be lost, and, above all, God’s law is “holy, righteous, and good” (Romans 7:12).
Marius Andrei serves as a pastor within the Seventh-day Adventist Church and he is a licensed psychotherapist.