When Rules Break the Law

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 1holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.

Philippians 2:14-16

In an August 2018 article on How Rising Inequality Has Widened the Justice Gap, writer Robert H. Frank talks about how the existing so called “justice system” disproportionately affects lower income people. As he describes and many people will attest to, in the current system, for many people, it only takes one legal situation in which someone requires legal assistance to derail a life that they are probably barely holding together as it is. 

And when we look at how things got this bad, it is evident that it is largely due to the reliance on the “market” to create a system of equal justice based on the false belief that self-interest will drive systems toward equality of access through increased competition. But in reality, what this ignorant belief has done has created a system wherein “justice” goes to those who can afford it. And what many people with resources mean by justice is an avoidance or minimization of consequences for them. And yet, when it comes to the poor who sometimes have to beg, borrow, and unfortunately sometimes feel like they have to steal to survive in this system, there is a complete disregard for how these very conditions from which they benefit is disproportionately damaging those who have little to nothing. Hiding behind the “rules” that exist largely to protect them from the poor, many resourced people are under the false impression that by paying for rules that serve them they are somehow above the Law. Unfortunately, what many of us don’t realize is that none of us are above the Law. 

Whose rules are we playing by?

How often do we hear the phrase “respect the rule of law”? As I’ve witnessed it, it is a phrase often invoked when some person or group is trying to exert or establish power over others. It is also frequently used in order to project in the consciousness of the hearers that the person saying the phrase has some type of moral superiority over the other. Whenever I hear the phrase, I have to be honest and say that I feel a little queasy. There are probably a lot of reasons why I feel that way. But, what comes to my mind is that the people who seem to use the phrase the most seem to be the most hypocritical people that I have ever witnessed. They hide behind the phrase but they do not embody it. It seems like for them  saying “respect the rule of law” is just another way of saying, “I am in charge. Do what I say or face the consequences. I make the rules. So, they do not apply to me.”

As a former rule follower, I used to be very intent about following the rules as if they were Law. In ways that I won’t get into right now, I will say that for me, following the rules was a form of defiance. Now that might seem strange to some people, but this was my reality. Early on in life, I realized that I had a high capacity for discipline. I would do things like challenge myself to stare at something as long as I could without turning my head or make myself write words out of the dictionary or some other behavior that would appear strange to an outsider but for me was kind of fun. I eventually observed that when it came to rules, I would like to challenge myself to adhere to them just for the sake of seeing if I could. It wasn’t about right or wrong for me.  I just came into the world with a strong desire to have control over my mind.

But eventually, I came to see that in some instances I would be rewarded for  “following the rules” and in other instances I would be labeled a kiss-ass or goody two shoes or something. From my perspective, I didn’t care about either opinion. That is until I started to see that in society, there seemed to be a different set of rules for some people than there were for others. When I thought that everyone who was participating in my world was playing the same games by the same rules, I didn’t really bother comparing my situation to other people’s. But when I realized that the system was proclaiming the same rules to everyone and yet applying them to whomever they willed based on arbitrary determinations, I became disturbed. You see it all the time. A different set of rules for the rich, people of different races,  or different religions, or education. And nepotism… That was the worse.

Once I became aware of this, my initial reaction was one similar to many of the people I was surrounded by—“If people want to choose who the rules apply to and who they don’t, then I won’t play your effing game.” The alternative to that was, “If they are going to cheat or make up their own rules, then I will do the same thing.” And finally, “If they are going to try to hold me down with their BS rules that they apply to me but look past when it is them then I will do everything I can to make them feel my pain.”

While those feelings came up for me, none of them resonated with the way I had determined to show up in the world. I saw that while those methods offered some temporary sense of emotional relief or release, it also had the negative side effect of causing me harm and potentially others as well. And not only that, the cheaters didn’t give an eff anyway. So I decided that what I would do was go with the Biblical prescription to present myself blameless—meaning that if I kept playing by the “rules” even in the face of people cheating, the cheaters would eventually be revealed for who they were and violation of their own rules would eventually come back on them. Why, because that is how “the Law” works.

Rules are not Laws

Many people make the mistake of thinking that the rules and preferences deemed by our societies as “laws” are something more than guidelines established by those in power in order to maintain some form of control over the masses. We call them laws when in fact,  they are just imitations of the Law. You see, true Law is inviolable and universally applicable and more than that is no respecter of persons i.e. the Law are objective. Law comes from God. Rules and preferences come from people. 

When we don’t adhere to rules or demonstrate preferences that contradict what are essentially societal norms, then the rule makers often “play God” doling out punishments in order force certain people into conformity. The fear being that if too many people do their own thing then society will descend into chaos.  That’s why “heresy” was such a big deal in the church. The word heresy simply means “having the ability to choose.” In today’s society where customization is almost expected in most of our purchases and even education, having the ability to choose doesn’t sound like much of a threat. But until relatively recently heresy, which basically meant thinking for yourself, came with a death sentence that many were told and believed was determined by God. 

God’s Law is One

Ironically, there is only one Law for human relations and we call that “The Golden Rule”—treat others the way you want to be treated. That effect of violating that Law is simple—we reap what we sow. As a result, there are many instances in this world where rules break the Law. Actually, there are whole societies that are systemically breaking the Law. Well, that is not actually accurate. In reality, one aspect of the Law is that it cannot actually be broken—though through ignorance its effects can be apparently delayed. But even in the appearance of delays, the Law’s response to what we sow is always immediate. And like painting over rust, the revelation of deterioration will eventually become evident. Just as it is so with individuals, networks and communities deteriorate their individual and collective souls when they ignore the Law.  

However, for those who love the Law, the great thing about it is its immediacy. Because by this same Law our positive sowing and reaping is also immediate. Knowing this we work on ourselves to surrender to it. In surrendering to it, we come to realize that while sometimes following the rules can be in opposition to the Law, living the Law will always serve to elevate and raise the consistency of the rules. A good example of this would be the civil rights movement in America. The rules of that era violated the Law and so when people chose to live the Law, the consequence was that the rules had to be elevated. In their convictions, the participants in the movement demonstrated to many what it looked like to see those who called themselves upholding the “rule of law” violating the True Law.

There is no loss in the Law

Of course, when looking at people like Jesus, Medgar Evers, or others who apparently lost their lives when living according to the Law, some people may fear that living the Law is dangerous. It is not. That thought is deceptive and it exactly what the rule makers want us to believe. But in reality, there is no loss in the Law because it is eternal and it is Love. And those who follow its Way are equally eternal. I don’t feel the need to qualify that statement right now, but I can say that in my experience there is something to the statement of Jesus which says:

“My food is to do the will of the One who sent Me, and to finish the Creator’s Work. Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!  And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both the one who sows and the one who reaps may rejoice together. 

John 4:35-36

We are all interrelated beings. There is no separate self. And this is precisely why how we treat others in the human network affects us. This is why the Law that is Love is One. It is why the greatest commandments of Jesus and the eventual revelation of all Truth-seeking inevitably leads us to the revelation that what we project is reflected back to us—whether for wellness or illness. 

In the coming years this will be more evident as the social atmosphere increasingly becomes one where feedback returns to us with greater rapidity. This is good news for those of us who are willing to surrender rules for the Law and challenging news for those who forsake the Law for the false idol of rules. My prayer is that I will continue work to align myself with the Law that is Love not only for my own sake, but for the quickening of the world that is coming—a world where the immediacy of the Law will become increasingly evident—a world where justice for all can never be ignored.

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