Key precept: Humans are intrinsically self-centered, we simply can’t stop ourselves from ruining essential relationships thus causing self-harm.
“There is none right-eous [always doing the right thing], no, not one: There is none that understandeth [always rational, we are often controlled by our emotions or physical desires despite awareness of negative consequences of actions], there is none that seeketh after God [wanting to be morally correct]. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes…For all have sinned…)” (Letter to the Romans 3:10-18, 23)
That word sin has become unpopular in current society, especially when applied to specific behaviors that are no longer illegal or considered harmful. I propose that we define “sin” as any behavior that an individual engages in, or fails to undertake, at the expense of others. This is why any size group of individuals need laws, from as small a group of two with a safe word and process of conflict resolution to the whole world, to safeguard and balance the rights and needs of individuals who depend on each other.
Four primary functions of law.
Laws serve to protect people from evil. Every society has individuals willing to harm others. Law creates a framework for reducing crime. First, it lays out the nature of proper and improper human conduct. It proscribes punishment for delinquency as a deterrent, and establishes the creation of enforcement mechanisms, such as police, that both prevent crime and enact punitive measures.
Law also promotes the common good. Humans tend to act out of self-interest. However, there are cases in which everyone benefits by pursuing a common interest and working together in cooperation. Anti-pollution laws, for instance, limit peoples’ freedom to dispose of waste as they please to promote the common good of a clean environment and resultant health benefits.
Laws provide for the peaceful resolution of disputes. Without legal processes for settling differences, people would act against one another in aggression. Laws create peaceful processes for conflict resolution through the court system.
Laws and rules help people develop good behavior. Often, people initially obey rules due to fear of punishment. However, consistent behavior causes them to internalize lawful conduct and eventually do it, even when they are not being watched.
The Bible records that all humanity was affected in the exact same way by the original sin, described in a previous post as triggering genetic changes passed down to all of Adam’s descendants. This is observable in the sin nature that exalts self while destroying essential relationships and rebels against authority while losing essential protection, as well as the inevitable deterioration and death of the body.
If you find this judgmental, consider your own experience of the behavior of people when there are not enough lawmen around to maintain security and order. We lock our homes and cars for a reason. Robbery and murder weren’t just in the American Wild West. The military is called in after disasters to minimize the inevitable breakdown of social order during which the weak suffer at the hands of the strong.
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