Recently I heard on TV a preview of a CNN program hosted by C. Amanpour, where a colored lady declared confidently: “I think people should be allowed to be who they are.”
At first hearing, the statement sounded very liberating and reassuring – even empowering. But, taken as it is, the declaration led me to ask: what if a person is a confirmed serial-killer or a rapist? Should he be allowed to continue to be who he is? What about the safety and security of everyone else? Shouldn’t these latter also be allowed to have some peace of mind being assured they are safe from harm or violence by those who seek to kill or rape?
In fairness to the said lady, I must say that she did qualify her statement by applying it to herself as one whom she considered to have done nothing criminal. [Or, she may have referred to her being a person of color, and that she should be allowed to be who she is in this sense.]
The major issue is concerned with morality — is there a sure and absolute standard by which to judge whether an attitude – and the concomitant action or behavior — should be, or not be, allowed to take place and even proliferate in a sane and sound society? After all, what are the “powers that be” there for?
1 Peter 2:13-14 exhorts: “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of men for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by Him [God] for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.” [See: The Sin of Rebellion.]
All sound societies have their respective set of laws, regulations, statutes, and ordinances that define what is acceptable [legal or lawful – good, moral] conduct or behavior, and what is unacceptable [illegal, unlawful, criminal – evil, immoral]. Governments also prescribe and provide a system of rewards for those who abide by the law, and penalties or punishment for those who break the law. Depending on the severity of the crime, governments may impose monetary or material fines, imprisonment, or the death penalty, as the case may be. [See: The Great Wall, and Of Dungeons and Prisons.]
World leaders agree that for any society to remain stable and even flourish, the “rule of law” must be in effect and followed. A clear distinction between good and evil behavior must be recognized and followed or avoided accordingly. Without this clear guideline, a society is doomed to lawlessness and chaos! The above-mentioned lady’s statement, unqualified, betrays a naïve understanding of human nature as it has turned out from the start. [See: “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!” A Law-abiding Universe — But Man! Is There Ever Any Good in Man? “No Such Thing as Sin?” and Being and Doing.]
The question of “legality”
Nations have and follow their own set of laws as handed down to them by ancient custom or tradition, by the decree of a sovereign [king, queen, president, premier, or dictator] – or by a body of “law-makers” [legislators like congressmen and senators, council members, etc.]. Thus we find quite a variety of laws among nations. What may be legal in one country may be illegal in another. An example would be polygamy [marriage to more than one spouse] and the medical use of marijuana.
Because such laws are made by men who are subject to error and imperfection, some laws may actually prove advantageous to some, while being disadvantageous, oppressive or onerous to others in society. It all started when our first parents decided to ignore their Creator’s commandment in favor of the enticing but contrary words of Satan the Devil, who came in the guise of a wily serpent (Genesis 2-3). [See: “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!” and Drunk With Strange Wine.]
Following in the steps of our ancestor Adam, all of mankind has rejected God’s commandments and laws. We have followed the “way that seems right” to us but actually “its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25). As a result, men have passed and enforced laws that are often unjust and inequitable. [See: Devising Evil by Law and The Rainbow Connection.]
Thus, what men might consider “legal” may in reality be unlawful in God’s eyes – a sin, or transgression of God’s law (1 John 3:4, KJV). That is why a person who thinks of doing something “legal” in the eyes of man’s law but sinful in God’s eyes would be allowed to perpetrate what he is contemplating, to the possible detriment to the person and to society. In the final judgment, God has ruled that “The wages [consequence] of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
In our time, the boundary between good and evil has become so blurred that God condemns some leaders of nations: “Woe [great suffering or punishment] to them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness, that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20)!
The result is that some countries have “criminalized” what is Godly and righteous – such as the proper instruction of one’s children in good behavior, which often requires discipline and admonition (Ephesians 6:4; Proverbs 22:15; 23:13). Other countries have “legalized” what God considers sinful – such as same-sex marriages [see: The Rainbow Connection].
Legislators, penologists, and humanitarians advocate that our justice system should not merely punish criminals but should also seek to restore them to such a “reformed” state as to make them useful and profitable to society. Thus bureaus of “prisons” are now called bureaus of “correction” – some kind of “reformatories.” [See: Of Dungeons and Prisons.]
But so is God’s primary desire for all of sinful mankind: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). To “repent” is to change from doing unlawful deeds (sinful or in transgression of God’s law] to obeying that law. There can be no better and more effective way to reforming one’s behavior than through thorough, deep-down and genuine repentance. Otherwise, Jesus warns more than once: “I tell you…unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 12:3, 5).
Such repentance is the result not simply of a person’s remorse over his crime or sin, although that is a good start. Acts 11:18 shows that repentance is something that God “grants” to a person or to persons. God does that by first giving His Spirit so that the person begins to understand the “goodness of God” (Romans 2:4). That knowledge should cause one to appreciate the righteousness, holiness, and goodness of God’s law (Romans 7:12) — that this law should be upheld and followed or observed by all. The knowledge and recognition of one’s falling short of God’s glory and perfection as revealed in God’s law, plus the realization of the dire consequence of sin not repented of (Romans 3:23; 6:23) should bring one to ask for God’s forgiveness and mercy through Christ’s shed blood, and the strength and power to obey God’s law from thereon.
I have published a number of articles on this website that discuss more about repentance and how God’s Spirit enables us to obey and thus please God. [See: God’s Spirit and Obedience, The Higher Law of the Spirit, and Breaking Down our “Walls of Jericho”.] Those who refuse to repent, despite God’s initiative, and will continue in wickedness will perish in the “lake of fire” or the “second death” (Revelation 21:8).
What God wants everyone to be
If there’s something everyone should be allowed to be who they are, it is what God desires each one of us to become – His very own sons and daughters! Hebrews 2: 10 reveals that it is God’s purpose to bring “many sons [and daughters, too] to glory” — immortal life as God’s children. Romans 8:16-17 assures: “The Spirit [itself] bears with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”
Let’s make sure we are accounted worthy to be truly God’s children [see: Are We All God’s Children?] As such, we have such a great potential as to cause even God Himself to marvel!. [See: “He Marveled.”]
Christ to rule with “a rod of iron” at His return
The good news or “gospel” of the Bible is about salvation in Christ and the establishment of God’s perfect kingdom here on earth. He will rule “with a rod of iron” (Revelation 2:27; 12:5; 19:15) — where wicked people will be swiftly dealt with. No one will be allowed to destroy human life and the earth (Isaiah 11:9; Revelation 11:18). Most will willingly submit themselves to Christ’s rule. The result: World Peace – At Last! [See also: “The Next Chapter of History.”]
It behooves every one of us to not be content to remain as we are – in sin – but to seek first God’s kingdom and perfection (Matthew 6:23; 5:48). [See: “Be Holy for I Am Holy,” Saved for Good Works, “I Never Knew You!” and The Four Dimensions of Christ’s Love.]
Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.