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The Law, the Police and You  


Driving home after visiting some of our family last weekend, I had the cruise control set on the maximum legal speed. I was vaguely aware that the behaviour of the other drivers was pretty much as usual. I overtook some drivers while considerably more passed me; some exceeding the speed limit by more than a few knots!  


Then I became aware of a subtle change in the drivers’ conduct. It seemed that a reformation of driver behaviour had occurred. It was as though those exceeding the speed limit had a change of heart – a kind of repentance, if you like – and everyone in our group of travelers decided to obey the law.   Why this sudden change of heart? Why was it that one minute the high-speed drivers totally ignored the law and the next minute they were willing to conform to its requirements?  


The answer was not hard to find. Joining our convoy from the rear was a Highway Patrol car. The “Law Enforcement Officers” had arrived on the scene!   However, after a short time, the patrol car turned off the highway and as soon as it was out of sight and there was no longer the immediate possibility of being caught speeding, the drivers reverted to their previous practices.  


So, there wasn’t a change of heart at all. Just a momentary fleeting commitment to obey the law. Outward conformity. Behavioural modification. A soon as the enforcers of the law disappeared, each driver reverted to doing what was right in his or her own eyes. The law became what they wanted it to be. What suited them.  


As I pondered that scenario, it occurred to me that the law is powerless to bring about a heart change in people. The best it can do is achieve short-lived external conformity to its requirements. Even the presence of those law enforcement officers did nothing to bring about genuine, lasting change. People obeyed the law while the police were around for fear of getting caught, not because it was the right thing to do.  


The real attitude of people to the law is seen when those enforcers of the law are absent, not when they are present. Speed cameras, radar traps, random breath-testing units etc., are simply other forms of enforcement that may restrain driver behaviour to some degree but, in the final analysis, the law is powerless to achieve lasting change in people. Self-centred human nature sooner or later and always takes over and the benefits of the law are neutralized.  


The problem is not with the law itself. The problem is with our attitude to the law. The laws to do with driving etc. are only helpful in securing our safety on the road if we are willing to submit to their authority. The moment we reject their authority and insist on making and following our own laws, there will be mayhem resulting (as is often the case) in injury and death.  


I would hate to think what it would be like on our roads if there was no laws at all! I have had people tell me some hair-raising stories of what it is like to drive in some countries/cities in the world where there are (seemingly) no laws at all to control the behaviour of drivers. Yikes! It makes me glad and grateful that in our country we do have rules and regulations and that many drivers, at least, will abide by some of them for their own safety if not for the safety of others.  


All this got me thinking about God’s Law. God’s law is good. Like our road rules, it was designed for our security, protection and welfare. But when our self-centred (i.e. sinful) human nature resists and rejects God’s Law, that law becomes powerless to achieve those benefits in our lives.  


The Apostle Paul put it this way:  


For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. Rom 8:3-4 NIV  


The imposition of any law from without will always fail to achieve positive results unless there is a corresponding heart change or change of attitude from within. Only where there is a willingness to comply with the law of the land can that law produce the desired, positive results for which the law was enacted in the first place.  


All that is well and good. However, about now, another problem arises. From where will this internal change of heart and attitude come? The evidence abounds for saying that we are incapable of producing such lasting change by our own determination.   Paul again points us to the answer to this dilemma. God sent His Son to deal with our self-centred human nature. Through His death and resurrection we are now able to live by the power of the Holy Spirit so that the requirements of God’s Law are fully met (fulfilled, realised, accomplished) in our lives by the same Holy Spirit.  


Seeking to fulfill God’s Law does not lead to heart change. That process only confronts us withour inability to obey the Law. God’s way is to invade our lives with His Holy Spirit and thus empower us to live in a way that aligns with all that He intended us to be.      

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