From time to time, there are folks who propose that in order to achieve true liberty and happiness we need to do away with all laws and governments. This belief is called anarchy and a little more than 100 years ago it was quite popular. After anarchists assassinated King Umberto of Italy, King Carlos of Portugal and President McKinley of the USA, most people were able to see the dangers inherent in anarchy.
Nevertheless, I suspect that many people’s dream of an ideal world would be one in which all other people were governed by the law, but they were free to do as they pleased. This fails to account for what can be called natural laws. If we throw a ball in the air, it will come down again, on our head if we happen to be standing in its path. If a man drives his car down the left side of the road when oncoming traffic is driving on the right side, someone is going to be hurt. If a man is known to tell lies, he will probably not be believed when he tells the truth. If parents feel that their children are a nuisance when they are small, the children are apt to feel their parents are a nuisance when they become old. If men and women change partners frequently, have children that they never take the responsibility to raise, they may never know the joys of having grandchildren crawl up on their laps. The purpose of civil and moral laws is to protect us from the consequences of transgressing the natural laws.
Businesses make rules for the same reason. Years ago I worked in an auto parts factory. Production continued round the clock, requiring three crews and three foremen. Two of the foremen were easy-going, likeable men who allowed their crew members more freedom than was good for them. The third foreman, Lawrence by name, ran a very tight operation which was not appreciated by all who worked for him. Some called him Larry, some called him Law. Since the company had an incentive pay plan based on production numbers, the workers on two of the shifts would often tinker with the settings on their equipment to try to increase production. If their tinkering didn’t turn out as expected, their foremen didn’t really have the expertise to make the proper corrections. At the beginning of his shift, Law would go from machine to machine and set them to the optimum settings. Production figures showed that his shift consistently outproduced the others.
All the foremen were required to have regular safety meetings. This tended to consist of a five minute reading from the safety manual and 25 minutes of telling jokes. But not with Law. I remember one safety meeting after there had been some practical joking happening on the factory floor. “Do you know how long this horseplay is fun?” Law asked, then answered his own question, “It’s only fun until somebody gets hurt.” The workers knew he was right, but resented being told.
At one point there was a problem with one of the products being made, requiring the sorting of all production of that part and the scrapping of quantities of defective parts. At first we suspected a problem with the raw material, or a malfunction of the equipment. When we found that none of the defective parts were produced on Law’s shift, using the same material and the same equipment, it was obvious we had a problem with careless operators. Even then, it wasn’t all that easy to correct the problem as those workers had grown accustomed to not taking their foremen very seriously. It took the suggestion that their jobs could be at stake to remedy the situation. During all of this time, Law was a protection to his workers, their performance was not in question.
If the law is good, why do we resent it? Is it a lack of understanding, a lack of experience, our emotions, wrong priorities, or some other flaw in our character? Beneath all of these reasons, or excuses, is the fact of our self-willed heart. With our minds we acknowledge that the law is good and right, but deep within us there is a hatred of the authority of the law. There is in fact a war within our very being.
The prophet Ezekiel revealed 2500 years ago that God would provide a solution to this problem. “ A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them” (Ezekiel 36:26-27). It’s really very simple, the problem never was with the law, it has always been in the heart of man.
We can define liberty as being able to do as we please without suffering any undesirable consequences. The natural man can never experience such liberty because his desires will always bring him into conflict with the natural laws which govern our existence. “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” (James 1:25). “ For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). When our heart is changed and God’s good pleasure becomes our good pleasure, we are completely liberated. Whatever we do, we can do it with all our might “ heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Colossians 3:23), with enthusiasm and without fear.