There’s an old saying much quoted by country folk around here: “Before you take down a fence, have a good think about why it was put there in the first place.”
Fences, of course, are constructed for a reason. They establish a boundary. They denote property lines. They keep people or animals or things within an established area, or keep others out. They afford protection and privacy. They can screen an ugly view. Without fences, there would be a lot more conflict and anxiety, hence another old saying “good fences make good neighbours.”
Similarly, we need the invisible fences which enable us to live in harmony with others and operate as a society. Such fences can be personal ethics, legal requirements and community standards. I would argue that in western civilization, all these emanate from the Bible.
For over two thousand years the Bible has influenced first canonical law and the western legal systems which sprang from it. The ten commandments established reverence for God, respect for family values and consideration for one’s neighbour. “Don’t steal.” “Don’t kill”. “Don’t commit adultery.” These commands are as important for personal peace and community happiness today as they were when they were first delivered to the Israelites by Moses. The Biblical book of Proverbs contains many succinct principles for godly living which edify those who obey them, including faithfulness in marriage, honest dealing in business and humility in success.
The teachings of Jesus, recorded in the four gospels not only upheld the principles of the ten commandments, but enshrined them in a covenant relationship of God with man, through Jesus Christ. It became a relationship of love, not legalism. Obedience to God’s laws brought joy and peace. Whole societies founded upon Christian values became stable and prosperous.
This is why Christians feel strongly about changes to the law which are contrary to the law of God. In Queensland where I live there have been recent proposals to change the abortion laws which, had they have been passed and not withdrawn, would have allowed abortion of the unborn throughout a pregnancy. Later this year the Victorian parliament will consider laws to legalise euthanasia, which, if passed will make Victoria the only state of Australia to do so.
Whenever we see man trying to change God’s laws, we will hear about the stringent system of checks and balances which will be put in place. History demonstrates that once the law is established, the checks and balances change and diminish. Man pulls up the fence posts and starts to stretch the boundaries, and wonders why it all comes crashing down.
The reality is that God has already established the systems of checks and balances that work.