In our nation today, a woman who is six months pregnant can go to a clinic and have the child terminated. Not only can she do this, she can receive considerable social support in doing so. The law of God is flagrantly insulted. But if that same woman stands on a busy street comer, visibly pregnant, and smokes herself a pack of cigarettes, she will be the brunt of a lot of cold, icy stares. How dare she risk a low birth weight?
Similarly, the woman’s unborn child can be killed for having birth defects, but if he navigates his way past our abortion laws and is successfully born, we will arrange special Olympics for him, handicapped parking in every lot in town, and access into every building in the nation. In a fever pitch of moral do-good-ism, we insist that such individuals have a fundamental right to be able to access anything—except for their lives.
Law is inescapable. Every man, every day, makes ethical decisions, and he does so in accordance with a particular standard. This is the case whether or not the man has been saved by the gospel of grace. Grace does not remove the daily obligation to make decisions, and it does not remove the logical necessity of doing so in line with a particular standard. He will return his neighbor’s lawn mower. Why, and by what standard? He will report his taxable income honestly. Why, and by what standard? He will leave one church to attend another. Why, and by what standard? He will floss his teeth daily. Why, and by what standard? Our decisions line up either with God’s standard or with man’s. If they do not line up with God’s, then the result can be called legalism—whether those legalisms are individual, ecclesiastical, or national.
Jesus taught that if the law of God is set aside, it will not leave a vacuum behind. Whenever men do this kind of thing, they set aside the Word of God for the sake of their own laws, their own traditions, and their own wisdom. Men either will do what God requires of them or they will not. If they do not, they are still created in the image of God and consequently want to believe themselves righteous. But since they have abused God’s law, they must devise a law they can keep. And the more flagrant their abuse of God’s law has been, the more zealous they must be in keeping the law they have devised.
And this is why we, an immoral and relativistic people, are peculiarly afflicted with the need to go on one moral crusade after another. P.J. O’Rourke once commented that everyone wants to save the world, but no one wants to help mom with the dishes. Reversing this, we can say that because we do not obey God in our daily lives, we have a desperate need to save the world. And the worse we get in our personal lives, the more virulent the moral posturing gets.
Save the rain forest. Save the whales. Just say no to drugs. Make the world safe for democracy. Leave no child behind. Stop big tobacco. Sue the handgun manufacturers. Insist on reparations for slavery. Fight terrorism. Recycle paper and aluminum. Just say no to hate. Fight homophobia. Visualize world peace. Think globally, act locally. Build a wheelchair ramp.
And splash some more.