Appeals to the Law

I’ve always been amazed at how people who hold others to the law are usually in their closeted life the greater violators of it. I thought of that yesterday reading a comment on Facebook from a good friend of mine, Kent Burgess. He was quoting from The Shack:

“Mackenzie,” Sarayu continued, “those that are afraid of freedom are those who cannot trust us to live in them. Trying to keep the law is actually a declaration of independence, a way of keeping control.”

“Is that why we like the law so much—to give us some control?” asked Mack.

“It’s much worse than that,” resumed Sarayu. “It grants you the power to judge others and feel superior to them. You believe you are living to a higher standard than those you judge. Enforcing rules, especially in it’s more subtle expressions like responsibility and expectation, is a vain attempt to create certainty out of uncertainty. And contrary to what you might think, I have a great fondness for uncertainty. Rules cannot bring freedom; they only have the power to accuse.”

I remember working on this portion of the book and how taken I was by a relational reality that would transcend the need for rules and law, because law was the way we sought to manage people without having to relate to them in love. Law, politics, capitalism, and religion all seek to manipulate the law to gain an advantage over others. In that sense most appeals to the law are simple cowardice. By letting an advocate represent their selfish side they can still pretend to be kind and gracious.

In my work with BridgeBuilders I have seen how our legal system completely disowns all that is important to God—love, grace, mutual respect and relationship—and seeks to manipulate the letter of the law for whatever self-interest can be gained by either side. It sustains itself in an environment of distrust and suspicion and rather than seeking common ground it turns everyone into a winner or a loser. But it always sacrifices relationship on the altar of personal gain. Once something goes legal no one cares about the others involved or even the truth of what was said or done, but only how every thing can be twisted to personal advantage.

“It grants you the power to judge others and feel superior to them.”

And relationship in the world suffers every time we do that. How easy it is to write or read words like those above, and how much more difficult to actually live them in our relationships with others. Our commitment to relationship is not measured when times are good and we all agree, but where we don’t see things the same way.

Hasn’t there been enough division in this world between brothers and sisters without adding to it? The last time I got separated from a brother on this journey, I told myself I’d never let it happen again. I’d do everything in my power to fight for the joy of a relationship even if it cost me in temporal terms.

The only problem is, while it takes two softened hearts and a significant amount of time to begin to even taste the beauty of God’s kind of community, it only takes one damaged heart and a split second to destroy it. As much as it lies with you be at peace with all men, is how the writer of Hebrews put it. And that’s all we can do. But at least let’s do that. We need more peacemakers in the world, not those who would look down on others.

Share this Post!

Related post

10 Comments
  1. nancy May 14, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    Wayne…I totally understand what you wrote and share your perspective, but for everything there is the exception….the person who most helped me most understand what living loved is all about was my Dad…my Dad was REAL and he had a huge heart for people. A few years before my Dad died, when it was known in his community that he had cancer, i happened to meet the funeral director and his wife out for an evening walk. The funeral director said to me “You will never know how many people your Dad has helped.” My Dad grew up during the Depression, served in the Pacific during WWII, had relapses of malaria for years afterward, married, got his degree and went back to the Polish immigrant community from where he came. His name for God was “the Good Lord” and he gave me the example of a thankful life lived appreciating other people and God’s blessings. Anyone he met, he found a connection…a relative, a friend, a place, an experience.. and he always remembered people. At the end of his life, he would talk with the nurses and aides and find he knew their parents, grandparents, extended families, neighbors, etc…always finding those connections. What did my Dad do that helped so many people? He was a lawyer…but he was not a legalist. He was a district attorney for 8 years, he was a special prosecutor, he did many people’s wills, real estate transactions, civil cases, criminal defenses…the whole gamut. He helped people with the law…he knew the letter of the law and how to use it…but he was about helping people. He prosecuted some people who did some truly evil things but he realized they were still people. He defended some people who had broken the law but he realized they were still people. He was straightforward and believed in people getting along and using common sense and having compassion. It was never the law for the sake of the law, it was helping people for the sake of people. He often stood with the lowly in the face of the arrogant. Another thing about my Dad is that he always willlingly did the worst of whatever had to be done. When we were sick as kids he would clean up the mess and let my Mom take care of us. When we were rehabbing our house and the septic leaked into the basement, my Dad showed up and scrubbed the basement floor so we could keep working on everything else. He did those kinds of things over and over again. And no, I will never know this side of heaven how many people my Dad has helped but I know how much I am helped by the love of God he shared with me.

  2. nancy May 14, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    Wayne…I totally understand what you wrote and share your perspective, but for everything there is the exception….the person who most helped me most understand what living loved is all about was my Dad…my Dad was REAL and he had a huge heart for people. A few years before my Dad died, when it was known in his community that he had cancer, i happened to meet the funeral director and his wife out for an evening walk. The funeral director said to me “You will never know how many people your Dad has helped.” My Dad grew up during the Depression, served in the Pacific during WWII, had relapses of malaria for years afterward, married, got his degree and went back to the Polish immigrant community from where he came. His name for God was “the Good Lord” and he gave me the example of a thankful life lived appreciating other people and God’s blessings. Anyone he met, he found a connection…a relative, a friend, a place, an experience.. and he always remembered people. At the end of his life, he would talk with the nurses and aides and find he knew their parents, grandparents, extended families, neighbors, etc…always finding those connections. What did my Dad do that helped so many people? He was a lawyer…but he was not a legalist. He was a district attorney for 8 years, he was a special prosecutor, he did many people’s wills, real estate transactions, civil cases, criminal defenses…the whole gamut. He helped people with the law…he knew the letter of the law and how to use it…but he was about helping people. He prosecuted some people who did some truly evil things but he realized they were still people. He defended some people who had broken the law but he realized they were still people. He was straightforward and believed in people getting along and using common sense and having compassion. It was never the law for the sake of the law, it was helping people for the sake of people. He often stood with the lowly in the face of the arrogant. Another thing about my Dad is that he always willlingly did the worst of whatever had to be done. When we were sick as kids he would clean up the mess and let my Mom take care of us. When we were rehabbing our house and the septic leaked into the basement, my Dad showed up and scrubbed the basement floor so we could keep working on everything else. He did those kinds of things over and over again. And no, I will never know this side of heaven how many people my Dad has helped but I know how much I am helped by the love of God he shared with me.

  3. Theresa Lode May 15, 2010 at 5:29 am

    Nancy- What a lovely tribute to your dad. What a legacy to leave behind.

    Wayne- As of yesterday, some crook accessed out checking account via my debit card. It’ll take a week or two to recover our funds. (Great timing…two days after Jay’s job loss. 😉 So I especially loved the “I have a great fondness for uncertainty” and still have your words echoing in my head about how you’ve learned to love NOT knowing the plan.)

    But anyhoo. In talking to the bank, I am so struck at how it is the laws in place that will keep these crooks from ever getting caught. Overseas privacy laws, the banker said.

    Oh the irony of it all. But yet more and more I see the systems and laws at work in our world and see through them for the smoke and mirrors and illusions that it is REALLY.

  4. Theresa Lode May 15, 2010 at 8:29 am

    Nancy- What a lovely tribute to your dad. What a legacy to leave behind.

    Wayne- As of yesterday, some crook accessed out checking account via my debit card. It’ll take a week or two to recover our funds. (Great timing…two days after Jay’s job loss. 😉 So I especially loved the “I have a great fondness for uncertainty” and still have your words echoing in my head about how you’ve learned to love NOT knowing the plan.)

    But anyhoo. In talking to the bank, I am so struck at how it is the laws in place that will keep these crooks from ever getting caught. Overseas privacy laws, the banker said.

    Oh the irony of it all. But yet more and more I see the systems and laws at work in our world and see through them for the smoke and mirrors and illusions that it is REALLY.

  5. Wayne May 15, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Nancy, I don’t think your father was an exception to what I wrote. I think he is exceptional. My post was not really about attorneys, though it certainly would apply to the shady ones. My post was more about people who would rather appeal to laws, rules or ultimatums rather than seek out a conversation that would allow love, grace and respect to flourish so that everyone’s concern can be served. My observation is that those who reject that conversation are trying to manipulate things so they can serve their desires alone. In that case, I’m grateful for attorneys like your father who can go into that fracas and fight for what’s right against those who only want to crush others.

  6. Wayne May 15, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Nancy, I don’t think your father was an exception to what I wrote. I think he is exceptional. My post was not really about attorneys, though it certainly would apply to the shady ones. My post was more about people who would rather appeal to laws, rules or ultimatums rather than seek out a conversation that would allow love, grace and respect to flourish so that everyone’s concern can be served. My observation is that those who reject that conversation are trying to manipulate things so they can serve their desires alone. In that case, I’m grateful for attorneys like your father who can go into that fracas and fight for what’s right against those who only want to crush others.

  7. Lesa May 16, 2010 at 5:41 am

    Wayne, et all.
    I am learning to live life relationally with others that God is putting in my path. Case in point, a young lady that God has asked me to help is now making decisions in her life that will seperate her from friends and potentially a relational life with God. It is difficult to see her “fall back” to what she was once held captive to. Rather than judge her in what I perceive to be “bad decisions”… I am learning to love her through it… keeping the door open for her to respond back to the open arms that the Father has for her. This is so much easier to write and or say than to actually do..One wrong word, one unspoken judgement on my part and I could hinder her continued walk? On this day I would ask that anyone reading this post would prayer that I let Christ speak throuh me, that not my words would be spoken, but His.

    Thank you for sharing your struggles with us Wayne, it keeps it real.

  8. Lesa May 16, 2010 at 8:41 am

    Wayne, et all.
    I am learning to live life relationally with others that God is putting in my path. Case in point, a young lady that God has asked me to help is now making decisions in her life that will seperate her from friends and potentially a relational life with God. It is difficult to see her “fall back” to what she was once held captive to. Rather than judge her in what I perceive to be “bad decisions”… I am learning to love her through it… keeping the door open for her to respond back to the open arms that the Father has for her. This is so much easier to write and or say than to actually do..One wrong word, one unspoken judgement on my part and I could hinder her continued walk? On this day I would ask that anyone reading this post would prayer that I let Christ speak throuh me, that not my words would be spoken, but His.

    Thank you for sharing your struggles with us Wayne, it keeps it real.

  9. Terry Rousseau May 17, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    Wayne

    For the first time, when reading something about loving others I looked at myself instead of all the people who failed to love me. When I read the line “It grants you the power to judge others and feel superior to them.” for the first time since leaving the church I saw my fault before I saw theirs.

    I think in a twisted way I returned the favor and did the same thing to them that I claimed they did to me, judged them by my standard, the way they judged me by theirs. Neither of us apparently knows how to love very well.

    He wanted me to get on board and row the boat. Trust him and follow his lead. I wanted to know and follow God, and we couldn’t find common ground and now my family is in shreds as we try to pick up the pieces of destroyed relationships.

    I don’t think I blew it. I am confident that God wanted us out of there but I can’t help but wonder if I would have loved them they way they didn’t love me, if it could have been different. It maybe too late but like you I pray it will never happen again.

    Terry

  10. Terry Rousseau May 17, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    Wayne

    For the first time, when reading something about loving others I looked at myself instead of all the people who failed to love me. When I read the line “It grants you the power to judge others and feel superior to them.” for the first time since leaving the church I saw my fault before I saw theirs.

    I think in a twisted way I returned the favor and did the same thing to them that I claimed they did to me, judged them by my standard, the way they judged me by theirs. Neither of us apparently knows how to love very well.

    He wanted me to get on board and row the boat. Trust him and follow his lead. I wanted to know and follow God, and we couldn’t find common ground and now my family is in shreds as we try to pick up the pieces of destroyed relationships.

    I don’t think I blew it. I am confident that God wanted us out of there but I can’t help but wonder if I would have loved them they way they didn’t love me, if it could have been different. It maybe too late but like you I pray it will never happen again.

    Terry

Comments are closed.