At what point do laws oppressive or a means or control

(Hoang Vuong) #1

I once saw a piece of film which showed when cars became popular, but because there were no laws, people drove them how they saw fit. It was chaos and there were loads of accidents. It showed that as soon as you had more than one person with a car in a location you needed some laws. So, laws were brought in.
I love the 10 commandments and Jesus’ 2 commandments that summaries them. These give order, but allow room for freedom of expression. For example, they don’t tell you how to dress, what to eat or where to leave your bible. However, all of the laws in the old testament make me feel very uncomfortable. Sounds like a religious version of a Police State when a few men in power try to control everyone else. Jesus doesn’t seem keen on it either seeing how he reacts to the Pharisees who were running things by those same laws.
Would God really give all those commands?

(Laura) #2

Hello, Hoang, and welcome to the forum!

That is a good question (and I like your analogy), and something that many Christians wrestle with as we aim to figure out how God wants us to live.

One thing to take into account is that the law was given to the Hebrews in a very specific time and place – they were wandering in the desert, and did not have the kind of infrastructure that a more “settled” people would have. Perhaps that’s one reason why some of the laws seem harsh in our day – simply locking someone up in a prison wasn’t really an option for a nomadic people group.

I’m reminded of Romans 3, where Paul says in verse 20 that “through the law we become conscious of our sin.” The Hebrews learned that they could not attain righteousness simply by doing enough good things or avoiding enough bad things. That’s why we need Jesus.

(Phil) #3

Certainly, a big topic. I think the purpose of law is to control and suppress and can be oppressive. This is an especially relevant issue in a democracy, where we as citizens are somewhat in control of laws. When we ask “what would Jesus do?” We see clearly that under the quite oppressive Roman rule, for the most part he submitted to their authority, even to the point of warning about the consequences of rebellion, in the fall of the temple, while using it as an allegory of his resurrection. However, he of course submitted to the higher authority of the Father which brought his life into conflict with both religious and secular power.
In any case, Jesus was more concerned with the heart than legalism, as I see it, though getting our hearts right will ultimately lead to obedience to just law.
Just musing this Saturday morning, but I think we would all rather have a child who wants to do right but messes up, rather than one who obeys but does so unwillingly and with resentment.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #4

Here is the situation:
The Jews are bound by the Old Testament Covenant which includes the Law.

Paul told us that Christians are bound only by the New Testament which does not include the Law of Moses.

(Mark D.) #5

I think it is a sign of maturity for a people when they can reach consensus on what liberty to willingly forgo in order to sufficiently safe guard each from the excesses of the other. I would want most for children as they mature to understand the tradeoffs as such and not feel the law to be something extraneous and oppressive to themselves. They should grow to feel ownership over the social pact and, where they feel strongly that revision is needed they should understand the political process by which the law can be altered.

(John Dalton) #6

How did he say it exactly? (Given that the New Testament did not exist at the time, it couldn’t have been quite like that)

(Jay Johnson) #7

You have to realize that the OT laws actually did govern a society, which was the nation of Israel. An easy way to conceptualize it is that the “10 Commandments” form ancient Israel’s constitution, and the rest are the laws, rules, and regulations necessary for any political society to function. Since the kingdom of God that Jesus announced is a spiritual kingdom, not a political kingdom, the need for the “specific” laws that regulate society has disappeared.

If the OT laws make you uncomfortable, perhaps it will help to compare them with their contemporaries. The Code of Hammurabi is perhaps the best-known example of an ancient law code (outside the Bible). Hammurabi was a Babylonian king who ruled approximately from 1792 to 1750 B.C. These laws explicitly dictated consequences for offenses based on social rank. For example, laws 200-203 read:
200. If a man knocks out the teeth of his equal, his teeth shall be knocked out.
201. If anyone strikes the body of a man higher in rank than he, he shall receive sixty blows with an ox-whip in public.
202. If a free-born man strikes the body of another free-born man of equal rank, he shall pay one gold mina .
203. If the slave of a freed man strikes the body of a freed man, his ear shall be cut off.

Compare this to the Bible’s famous law of eye-for-eye, tooth-for-tooth in Leviticus 24:17–22:

Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death. 18 Whoever takes an animal’s life shall make it good, life for life. 19 If anyone injures his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him, 20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given to him. 21 Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, and whoever kills a person shall be put to death. 22 You shall have the same rule for the sojourner and for the native, for I am the Lord your God .

Notice the key difference between Hammurabi’s Code and the Bible. Whereas other ancient codes dictated punishments based on social rank, the Mosaic Law espoused equality of everyone under the law, even foreigners. If you want to know where the concept of equal standing under the law comes from, you are looking at it right here.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #8

Luke 22:20 (NIV2011)
20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

“Paul told us that Christians are bound only by the New Testament.”

The New Testament is not the book, but the New Covenant in Jesus Christ. The word covenant is the dame as testament. The Judaizers wanted Christians to be bound by both covenants, but Paul said that Christians are bound only by the covenant of the body and blood of Jesus. Salvation is found alone in Jesus, not is Jesus plus works.

(John Dalton) #9

Thanks, Roger.

(system) #10

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