When was the last time you heard someone say, “There ought to be a law!” concerning some problem? These days it seems we need more and more laws, to control guns and address escalating violence; restrain people from distracted driving; protect children from all manner of dangers, and many other things that come to mind.
Laws are necessary. If we didn’t have speed limits, what would keep people from driving 100 miles per hour through residential areas? If we didn’t have patents, copyrights and trademark laws, people could steal and capitalize on the hard work of others. If the FDA didn’t monitor food production, how would we know things we buy at the grocery store are safe to consume?
But having laws doesn’t mean those regulations will be obeyed. Some of our largest cities have the most stringent gun laws, yet hundreds die from gun violence there every week. Many states have created legislation prohibiting texting while driving, and yet we often pass someone trying to drive while exchanging texts with friends. Speed limits don’t seem to affect drivers who pass us on 55-mile per hour interstates driving 90 miles an hour or faster.
I have a radical thought: Why don’t we just do a better job of obeying and enforcing the laws we have. And maybe, consider revisiting old laws we’ve cast aside that served humanity well for many centuries.
Take the Ten Commandments, for example. Back in the 1960s, court rulings and legislation began systematically removing all references to God in our public schools and institutions. When I was in school back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, we began each day with a brief reading from the Bible, a short prayer, and I dare say, we might even have made occasional reference to the Ten Commandments. As a result, principals and teachers had to deal with such heinous acts as chewing gum in class, running in the hallways, and throwing spitballs.
Fast forward to today, when certain segments of society have smugly succeeded in eradicating any reference to the Ten Commandments and other biblical teachings, all in the name of political correctness and “tolerance.” Isn’t it scandalous to be taught and reminded of such precepts as “honor your father and mother,” “you shall not murder,” “you shall not steal,” “you shall not give false testimony” (lie), and “do not covet” (harbor envy over other people’s stuff)?
Now nobody worries about gum-chewing, scampering through hallways or tossing harmless wads of paper. Nope, classrooms are in chaos, and even the best-intended teachers find themselves hard-pressed to instruct rebellious students. Drugs, guns, knives and other tools of mayhem are concerns they must confront on a regular basis.
Any teacher worth her or his salt will tell you one of the most effective ways to teach is through repetition. Through consistent review and practice, facts are memorized, principles grasped, and methodologies mastered. Maybe what society needs is an undiluted dose of Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, God’s laws that He established not to be restrictive, but for our own good.
True, the “olden days” of education were hardly perfect. Kids got unruly from time to time, stealing wasn’t unheard of, and an occasional fistfight broke out. But we all shared a common sense of right and wrong. When we did wrong, deep down we knew it.
Laws don’t stop bad behavior; they only consciously inform us of what we already know subconsciously. As Romans 5:20 tells us, “The law was added so that the trespass might increase….” If there’s no posted speed limit, for example, and I drive 90 miles an hour down a street, I already have a sense I’m going too fast. But when I see a sign that says “Speed Limit 35,” that confirms it.
Of course, the biggest problem with the Ten Commandments are the first three, stated in Exodus 20:3-7 and Deuteronomy 5:7-11: “I am the Lord your God…. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything…. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God….” These commandments remind us we are to worship and serve the one true God, which irks many of us no end. Who does God think He is, anyway?
But these commandments focus not only on behavior, but also on the condition of our hearts. When someone asked Jesus what He considered the greatest commandment, He replied, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Laws and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40).
He was saying, in essence, “Do these two things and you’re good to go.” Until then, we can pass all the laws we want, establish ever more stringent regulations, and we’ll still have to deal with human depravity in all of its depths. As Romans 1:28 declares, “since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.”
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly re-published, “Business At Its Best,” “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. To read more of Bob Tamasy’s writings, you can visit his blog, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, or his website (now being completed), www.bobtamasy-readywriterink.com. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.