I grew up listening to Tina Turner, and one of her famous songs was “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” As Christians, we understand that our primary calling is to love God, and our secondary calling is to love others. Turns out, love’s got everything to do with it.
In fact, the four-chapter gospel can really be read as a love story between God and man. We see throughout Scripture God’s incredible love for us as individuals created in his image. Michael Goheen writes,
For the one who has heard Jesus’ call to follow him, the call comes with a summons to enter the story of which he was the climactic moment–the story narrated in the Bible. It is an invitation to find our place in that story.
So it comes as no surprise that love plays a significant role in how we build social structures such as the family, the church, our business, and our economy. But what does love have to do with the law? And if the rule of law is an essential pillar of a flourishing society, how should Christians think biblically about law?
I spent this summer reading through the Psalms. I’m amazed at the references to the law woven throughout a book of praise. The Psalmist time and again shares his love for the law and his longing to obey it as an act of worship.
We read in Psalm 119 the importance and beauty of God’s law.
“Your rules are marvelous. Therefore I observe them. Your instructions are a doorway through which light shines. They give insight to the untrained. I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commands” (Psalm 119:129-131).
When I think of the law, it does not trigger an emotional response like this, at least not a positive one.
Yet the Psalmist in Psalm 119 gives us a picture of what it means to not only recognize, but also love the law as put forth by God.
“Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble. I hope for your salvation, O Lord, and I do your commandments. My soul keeps your testimonies; I love them exceedingly. I keep your precepts and testimonies, for all my ways are before you” (Psalm 119:165-168).
Through creation, we see how God designed an ordered environment to help us achieve flourishing and ultimate freedom. In Genesis 1:28, God introduces the cultural mandate to man, commissioning him to be fruitful, multiply and subdue the earth, with the only stipulation that he was not to eat of one tree. Here we find one of the primary ingredients for flourishing: freedom through the law.
From Biblical Law to Political Law
The law enables freedom rather than prohibiting it. We are taught to love the law because when we follow the law, we receive joy. Anyone who has ever tried to assemble a bike understands you cannot enjoy the thrill of flying down the road with the wind on your face, unless you first follow the assembly instructions. Just one missed step could lead to serious injury. Similarly, you cannot experience the joy of winning a tennis match unless you follow the rules of the game, practice the right strokes, and apply the correct technique.
When law is grounded in biblical truth, it becomes a portal to reflect the glory of God. It is not a tool of control or mechanism to manipulate others, but something to be obeyed and respected. Through adherence to the law, we are able to create a society where each of us has the freedom to be all that God created us to be. An ideal society is not one where the law is absent, but one where the law protects individual liberty.
Our fallen nature wants to reject structure, but it is within the bounds of the law that we can truly prosper. The law was never intended to be a punishment, but a framework in which man can thrive. Obeying the law is a choice, but as Scripture teaches, it brings great blessing. A society that does not have right or just laws lacks the foundation upon which to build a community that enables flourishing.
I went for a run by the Jefferson Memorial last week. While sitting under its epic dome, I read the inscription:
The God who gave us life gave us liberty-can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?
It is not only this liberty, but also the law, which is a gift from God reflective of his love.
Does the law protect our freedom on an individual or societal level?