The Law of God and Public Policy, Part 22

Peaceful and Quiet
The Law of God and Public Policy (22)

In a good society, people live in safety, without fear.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life… 1 Timothy 1:1, 2

Paul on the “good society”
We are looking at the Apostle Paul’s counsel to the minister of the churches in Ephesus regarding what to work for in the way of a “good society.” Once we’ve gained an understanding of his insights to this matter, we will return to the Law of God, which Paul explained is holy and righteous and good, in order to see how it can help to guide us in thinking about policies agreeable to the formation and sustenance of a good society.

Paul’s first criteria for a good society is one in which people lead peaceful and quiet lives.

Our disquieting times
The words, “peaceful and quiet,” are at the heart of what many people insist is missing our own society today. So narcissistic, self-centered, and disrespectful of persons and property have we become, that few today, I suspect, would characterize their lives as “peaceful and quiet.” We are wary of just about everyone and downright fearful of some. We arm our homes with security systems and extra locks, and, for good measure, some of us even keep a little “peacemaker” ready to hand – just in case.

Evidence that we are neither a peaceful nor quiet people abounds. Listen to the uncivil tone of so much public debate, and vulgarity that characterizes so much of everyday conversation. Hear the angry lyrics of certain kinds of pop music, and see the glorified violence in so much of contemporary film. Note the increase of road rage, domestic violence, flash mob crime, and identity theft. Observe the increasing use of security cameras in public places. Consider the dog-eat-dog atmosphere that characterizes the world of business and trade.

Such are hardly the characteristics of a people who are living together in peace and quiet. I have often heard members of a previous generation comment that, when they were young, they never locked the doors to their homes.

Imagine if that were to be widely known about your home today.

From theism to relativism and pragmatism
When people turn away from God, they look to themselves as gods and chart a course in life that works for them. If that means disrespecting others and their property – setting aside the fifth, eighth, and tenth commandments – so be it.

But as is by now apparent, we cannot achieve a good society when everyone is free to do what seems right in his or her own mind. The infamous “mystery clause” of the 1992 Supreme Court decision, Planned Parenthood v Casey, solemnly declared the right of every American to define his or her own worldview. And Americans have leaped at the opportunity with a vengeance. Now “tolerance” is the only virtue and “intolerance” is not to be, well, tolerated. We should all be able to say what we want, do what we want, wear what we want, sleep with whom we want, and get away with as much as we can – as long as it makes us happy.

But the problem is that people get hurt. Property is jeopardized. And some people – Aurora, Colorado; Newtown, Connecticut – die.

Not the fault of government, but…Our present condition of disquiet is not the fault of our federal government. Not entirely, anyway. But whatever policies of America’s government have encouraged or exacerbated this situation must be reviewed and replaced.

For example, teaching relativist ethics in the public schools, allowing judges to make law on the basis of their own whims and opinions, and failing to require restoration or minimizing retribution for crimes against persons and property are practices neither just nor good. Rather than promote godly character and secure peace and quiet for all citizens, such policies make it increasingly likely that the wants of some will cause the liberties and wellbeing of others to be compromised.

Public policy can’t do everything to ensure a peaceful and quiet society. Recovering protocols of decency and consideration, and exposing and condemning incivility, disrespect, and violence against others are the work of families, churches, friends and peer groups, as well as private associations of various kinds. Government policies have a role in this, but public policies ensuring peacefulness and quiet will not be a priority of government until they are seen to be highly valued among the population.

A good society is one in which people feel safe and secure from threats within or without. Public policy is more than law; it gets at the kinds of behaviors law enforces or punishes, but it also speaks to the way of thinking and living which the agencies of government – including the courts and schools – endorse and promote. We need a widespread, lively public debate about the tenets of peacefulness and quiet which it is our right before God to enjoy, and government’s responsibility, through public policy, to ensure.

 

Next steps: Talk with some of your friends – Christian and nonChristian. How do they define the idea of a “good society”? Do they think people today are living “peaceful and quiet lives”? Why or why not?

For more insight to this topic, order Chuck Colson’s book, God & Government, from our online store. You can download a free PDF series by T. M. on the topic, “The Government We Seek,” seven studies outlining a Biblical view of good government. It’s available here at no charge.