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Harm in the 21st Century

May 21, 2015

justice_2454cA government is to protect its citizens from evil. This responsibility is universally recognized and is one of the roles the Bible tells us God assigned to national and local governments. Citizens of a nation are right to expect authorities to prosecute crime and guard individuals from harm. Recent decades have seen a redefinition of what constitutes harm. Many responsible for administering justice in American communities define harm differently than it would have been defined 30 years ago. Harm now includes that which stifles a person’s sexual expression, which opposes one following his dreams, or which denies a person opportunities for personal pleasure. Not only is it harmful to punch someone in the nose, it is also harmful to denounce someone’s behavior. It is harmful to steal a man’s money and it is harmful to declare a man should not follow his desires. (Which leads to a problem. If my desire is to steal your money, your denunciation of my action is harmful to me.) The redefinition of harm creates havoc of any attempt at logical governance.

Harm and protection cannot rightly be defined apart from an absolute standard of right and wrong. The Christian justly declares, “Righteousness exalteth a nation.” However, even among professing Christians, the question of what is righteous is debatable. Some declare the righteousness of economic equality exalts a nation. Others declare the righteousness of loving tolerance exalts a nation and others declare the righteousness of keeping the ten commandments exalts a nation. Without a firm commitment to an objective standard of truth and a Divine arbiter of righteousness, these questions can never be answered. The culture war will continue to be lost because the foundational principles of right and wrong have no meaning.

The redefinition of harm creates a chasm in the conversation between Christians and the rest of society. Conservative Christians develop definitions of harm from the Biblical descriptions of forbidden behavior. Harm is defined in terms of sin. Behavior that scorns or injures an image bearer of God is intrinsically harmful. Behavior which is adverse to God’s perfect design for humanity is inherently harmful. Because such behavior is harmful, Christian compassion compels the believer to denounce sin. The believers condemnation of sinful behavior sets him at odds the modern definition of harm. The Christian in his compassion does that which the world sees as hatred.

The solution to this communication barrier is multi-faceted. For the lost to come to a right understanding of harm he must be saved. The culture wars will only be won by the preaching of the gospel. Only when people have turned to Jesus for salvation and are living as His disciples will there be basic agreement on matters of right and wrong. The Christian must pray for peace in his nation so that the gospel may be preached and the Christian must preach the gospel so that peace may come to his nation. The Christian must preach the gospel and he must not stop decrying evil. Even though the world does not understand his compassion the Christian who loves his neighbor must constantly denounce the perniciousness of sin. To allow a man to go into destruction unopposed is an evil far greater than being misunderstood and disliked. The Author of humanity has defined what is best for man and has warned against that which is harmful to men. We must never lose sight of this truth.

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