The Law – A Deterrent of Evil
I am not a terrorist. I am safe. I am not a danger to anyone, and I have no desire to hurt or bring harm upon any person. I only seek to pursue peace and good will toward all men – the same as my Lord. So, let me just put that out there since people are so quick to categorize anybody as a threat nowadays. I, as an American, am statistically more likely to be a victim of domestic terrorism at the hands of a mass shooter or bomber than I am to be a terrorist, given the number of people who have died in mass murders in the past 10 years and the number of terrorists who have carried out those threats of violence against Americans in that same time frame. (That’s not to mention, the number of those domestic terrorists who were women, black, or black women.) I’m also statistically more likely to be a victim of a traffic stop killing, given that I’m a black American and the number of unjust deaths of black people that occur at the hands of police officers.
We live in a country that makes people out to be terrorists and criminals before and without them ever committing a crime. It’s a nation of people who find it acceptable to terrorize those whom they deem as fitting a criminal or terrorist bill. Just because someone is a certain race, holds to a specific religion, or dresses, speaks, or thinks differently does not provide just cause to treat him or her like a terrorist or an outcast. You don’t deter a criminal from committing a crime by striking fear in them or harassing them. The law is what deters people from crime. A great lesson that touches on this idea can be found here: From Where Do School Shooters Come?
Romans 13: 1- 5 tells us that government, rulers and laws are in place for our good: “Everyone must submit to the governing authorities for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God. So then, the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do good and you will have its approval. For government is God’s servant to you for good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For government is God’s servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong. Therefore, you must submit, not only because of wrath, but also because of your conscience.”
There are 2 major points I want us to consider from the passage:
1. We should submit to and respect those in authority.
Verse 1 tells us that authority is from God and those who are in power were instituted by God. I’ve seen the way that people behave around 4 different presidents in my lifetime – whether it was a Democrat or Republican, whether he was black or white. People seem to have no filter and no regard for the Office if they espouse different views than the president, voted for someone else, or simply do not like him. But the Bible teaches that we should be respectful of those in authority. Though it may be a hard pill to swallow, this includes those who are corrupt in their authority, as well. Verse 2 plainly states that anyone who goes against that authority is in opposition to God and will bring judgment on themselves. So, whoever is in office should receive our respect – regardless of their views, their race, or their private lifestyle. Some of the things people have said about our past president, President Obama and our current one, President Trump are baffling. The lack of respect for the Office is by far at its worst in this day and age. It ought not to be so.
2. Rulers and their commands or laws are what deter bad conduct and criminal behavior.
Being black in a majority white neighborhood, I often have neighbors to come outside if they see me sitting in my car or when I drive over to the laundry facility and stay outside to clean my car. All of a sudden, everyone seems to want to come outside and walk their dogs or go for a walk or check their mail (sometimes all different races), while they make their way close over by me, presumably to be nosy and see what I’m doing. I’m not sure when it became a crime to sit in your car and listen to a CD or audio or to clean out your car in the parking lot. Nonetheless, if I were committing a crime or about to commit one, people walking around and trying to invade my space would not deter me from the crime.
If you’re anything like me, when you see a patrol car on the highway you slow down to a speed well below the speed limit. Why do we do that? It’s because we know there’s a law against driving over the speed limit and we know that if we are doing right and driving within the specified range, we don’t have to be afraid of being stopped by and getting a ticket from the police. The same is true with violent crime and terrorism. Laws are in place that stipulate consequences to such acts that keep people from doing wrong because they don’t want to suffer those consequences. Verse 4 explains that government is God’s avenger, bringing wrath on those who do wrong. However, we are not only to obey the law because of fear of consequences, but also for the sake of our consciences (v. 5).
Finally, God has made it clear how we combat crime, violence, and terrorism. We are not to make people out to be criminals or terrorists who have committed no crimes. There is no need to ostracize, mistreat, or dehumanize people who we might think may commit a terrorist act. That approach hasn’t stopped or prevented one of the many mass murders or acts of police brutality to date, as far as I am aware. People should allow every day, regular, hardworking, law-abiding citizens to live their lives in peace without fear of danger. You don’t deter terrorist acts by becoming a terrorist. You’re more likely to produce criminal and violent effects that way, because people will feel the need to protect themselves from you. We must treat people the way we want to be treated and “live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18), if possible. Let us “not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good” (Romans 12:21).