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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Outlawing Gays

It seems to be a common conception that people like me who believe that the Bible clearly teaches that homosexual behavior is a sin would necessarily wish to outlaw homosexual behavior. I'm not sure why that is. I've never suggested it. Never even thought it. But I did need to ask myself "Why? If you believe it's a sin, why would you not outlaw it?" I thought I'd share the process with you.

There are things in Scripture that are sins and there are things in Scripture that are crimes. Most crimes are sins, but not all sins are crimes. God clearly tells Israel that two people caught in adultery were to be stoned, but nowhere does God say what the penalty is for coveting. No one can doubt that coveting is a sin; it's in the list of the top ten. So while it appears to quite clearly be a sin, it is not, apparently, a crime.

Now, keeping in mind that Israel was a theocracy which made her a standout among nations and no nation today is a theocracy or will be, what about the same rules today? I think the question is one of authority. In a nation whose laws are legislated by God, the Creator has the right to make whatever laws He wishes and consider whatever sins He chooses as crimes. We don't have a nation legislated by God. We have a nation legislated by Man. The authority of God is much higher than the authority of Man. Thus, Man is limited in that which he can classify as crimes and completely disallowed from classifying anything as "sin" purely on his own. We can go with what God has classified thus, but we don't get to make up new ones.

What, then, is the authority and function of human government? The government's job is to take care of people. It performs duties in foreign relations for instance because that's between people. It provides for the common defense of people. It regulates businesses, civil laws, and public services because that's between people. Thus, the government gets to make laws that pertain to the smooth functioning of a nation and its people. John W. Gardner wrote, "All laws are an attempt to domesticate the natural ferocity of the species." That's about right. The function, then, of civil laws (those laws legislated by human government) is to protect people from people.

There is, then, a distinction between sin and crime. Indeed, it is entirely possible to be a criminal without having committed a sin. In some places, for instance, speaking the Gospel is against the law. Failing to preach the Gospel, on the other hand, is a sin. Thus, if you do not sin and preach the Gospel, you would be a criminal. Every law is a product of a value system and, as such, every law is a legislation of morality. However, not every issue of morality is a matter of civil law. The State only has the authority to enforce laws between people, not laws that transgress God.

Thus, I believe that homosexual behavior is a sin. I believe that it's bad for the people that engage in it and that it is a direct violation of God's commands. However, it is not a violation against people and, as such, it would not be something I'd favor passing laws against. I'd favor laws protecting marriage because that is a violation against people. I'd favor laws removing special privilege for the homosexual community because that is a violation against people. But outlawing them? I wouldn't go there. I don't think the government has the authority to go there. It is a violation against God. He will be the judge.

(Note: Please notice that I did not tag this entry as being about homosexuals. Frankly, it isn't. I'm not discussing the morality of homosexuality here, but using it as an example of something that is sin but perhaps not a crime. If you'd like to debate the premise -- "Homosexuality is a sin against God" -- you'll have to do it elsewhere. That is not the topic here.)

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