Gun Violence, Moral Law, and Matters of the Heart

When most of us hear the term “law,” our minds immediately conjure up vivid images of police, attorneys, Judge Judy, and hit television shows such as CSI or Law & Order. America is the most litigious society in the history of mankind. Our minds have been culturally conditioned to quickly identify opportunities to significantly profit from the wrongs we suffer. We are bombarded with marketing campaigns that target our pains and victimizations in life, and encourage us to file lawsuits to settle matters like divorce, car accidents, employment disputes, and medical malpractices.

A common theme in our cultural conversations is the violation of our Constitutional rights and privileges within civil law. By placing great emphasis on civil law, we’ve developed a one-dimensional perspective about law, and fail to think about the vital necessity of other kinds of law, including spiritual law and moral law. From my study of God’s Word as a Bible Teacher, I have discovered that the integration of spiritual law, moral law, and civil law (in that order), are essential to the overall health of any society. Most of our social challenges are the result of us focusing primarily on civil law, while neglecting spiritual law and moral law. A society without spiritual and moral law will always need more police, more courts, and bigger prisons.

In simple terms, spiritual law is God governing humankind. Civil law is the State governing its citizens. But moral law refers to a person’s capacity to self-govern, based upon divine, pre-determined principles of righteousness and justice. Therefore, moral law cannot be legislated. Principles of righteousness and justice originate with God, and are given to us by God. I believe this is why our nation’s founders desired for America to exist as “one nation under God.” As God’s influence within a nation decreases, immorality proportionately increases.

In the plethora of debates about gun legislation and gun violence, a discussion about moral law is indispensable. I believe our failure to acknowledge the importance of moral law and its connection to gun violence is the reason we struggle to discover and implement viable solutions to the problem.

Think about this. If you give a righteous man with a strong sense of morality the launch codes to America’s nuclear arsenal, people will remain safe and have nothing to worry about. But an unrighteous man who lacks morality and has malicious intent, is capable of killing people with a butter knife, a spoon, a paperclip, or even his bare hands. In both scenarios, the concern is not so much the weapon, but the heart’s intent of the individual who handles each weapon.

I have wonderful childhood memories of our family taking trips to the farm my dad was raised on in Choctaw County, Alabama. Hunting for food and shooting for sport was a way of life. Loaded guns were all around, and so were children. Thankfully, my childhood memories do not include any tragic incidents of people being injured or killed by guns, despite having easy access to multiple, loaded firearms.

As children, we were taught to fear God. We were taught to obey and respect our elders. We were taught to love and care for the people around us—that guns were to be respected—that guns don’t kill people, but people do. As children, we were taught moral law.

As I consider the exponential increase in gun violence from my childhood until now, I have concluded that guns have not changed, but people have. That people in general have become more immoral. It is not my intent to join or dismiss the political sparring about gun control and gun legislation, but to help us understand that gun violence is ultimately an issue of moral law and a matter of the human heart.

In Mark’s gospel, Jesus reveals the capacity of the human heart to function as the source of morality or immorality.

For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man. (Mark 7:21-23 NKJV)

This passage of Scripture speaks to the great need for each of us to join others on Survivor Sunday, in praying for those affected by gun violence. We must pray that God would comfort the hearts of those who have lost loved ones, or continue to live with physical, emotional, or psychological wounds from past tragedies. We must pray for God to remove malicious intent from the hearts of people, and to once again infuse our hearts with His moral law. It is my desire that our children will be safe and protected, just as we were on my dad’s family farm.