I have been laughing a little to myself lately about the goings on around Covid-19 and the rules and regulations that were put into place that have been defied with some abandon. When the police are present to enforce the guidelines, all masks are on, mouths AND noses are fully covered, hands are washed or sanitized, food carts disappear from sight, but as soon as the police turn around and enter their vehicles to leave – noses are out in full display or masks quickly whipped off, food carts rolled out, hand washing is disregarded and so on. To be honest, though, this isn’t isolated to Covid-19, it happens every day in relation to every single rule and regulation and at every level of society.
In Kenya, for instance, the ban on single-use plastics went into effect and was enforced with strength, but shortly afterwards the tiny transparent bags used for packing fruit and vegetables and for putting food in the freezer reappeared and only disappear when an enforcer is in sight. Are the people who are using the bags disobedient? Are the people who are supplying the bags the problem? Is it those people who close their eyes and open their palms at the ports of entry who should be blamed? Or was the law that was created and the manner in which it was implemented the problem? I suppose this could be debated at some length in one direction or another.
Consider another instance, the implementation of the curfew in Kenya for Covid-19 was rather brutal, particularly in its earlier stages, with people being beaten and incarcerated or forcefully put under quarantine for two weeks for being on the road a little later than required. Many wondered, is it that the disease becomes more potent at exactly 7pm? Others said that one has to be firm when enforcing new requirements otherwise the people don’t listen. I personally think it’s that the law was issued to enforcers and either the law maker or the enforcer or both, did not carefully consider that: 1) They were dealing with people, like themselves, who ought to be treated as humans; 2) The law in and of itself could have been interpreted with compassion, rather than brute force and that this would have achieved better results, as was seen in several exceptional cases; 3) Using brute force to try to convince people that you are trying to protect them from harm might be considered to be somewhat contradictory; 4) The law creates hard lines and hard positions and one should be careful what one determines should be enforced. This is not just about Kenya. I saw a report on Al Jazeera that said that in South Afrika, people were beaten or even shot by security forces and that in Nigeria security forces killed about 18 people in relation to Covid-19 enforcement measures. These three countries have cases of murder, rape, injustice and violence which have been reported all in connection with a situation where the countries in question were trying to protect their people from a disease. Hmm.
Sometimes I see things happen where the law is then cited as if it was God, father, mother, teacher and everything in between, without consideration for the circumstance. Some responses to the things that happened in Kenya from the citizens were along the lines of, “Why couldn’t they have been in the house on time? What’s wrong with them? They deserved what they got! Kenyans don’t think.” Really? Someone’s father, mother, brother, sister or child deserved to be beaten by the police to the point of injury or death, because they were late on day one of the curfew and they should have planned better so that they would not be beaten? Meaning that if you are in the house on time then you are good, but if you are not then you are bad? No consideration for whether the law even made sense in the first place or what could have happened to delay them? No cries that we should treat each other with hearts of compassion, but rather, ‘beat them like the dogs they are, they are evil, they were not in the house on time, they are not good like me’? For all those who were supporting the beatings, the president did apologize for what happened, so how does that make you feel about your position?
For any lawyers out there, keep in mind this piece was not written by one, but rather by someone who is trying to make sense of this world we seem determined to design in as faulty a manner as possible – while citing good intentions – and then defending with all might as if we built the absolute paragon of perfection, until the system comes knocking on our doors, because it somehow decided we were on the wrong side of it.
The law is a set of written guidelines that countries use to establish and maintain order within and outside of their borders. The law is a set of instructions that contain or communicate basic dos and don’ts governing certain interactions within society, the breach of which can result in some form of punishment or penalty or other. The penalty is meant to serve as a deterrent to the rest of the citizenry of the country or international community to prevent them from daring to defy the law. The law is supported by a system which is used to enforce it: law makers, police officers (enforcers), lawyers, judges, court houses, prisons, pharmacists, poisoners, electrocutioners and hangmen. It’s funny just how complex the system actually is, requiring even different hierarchies of courts to which one can appeal their case, in situations where the a ruling or judgment does not go in one’s favor.
Laws were and are created by people who sat/sit to determine what is good and what is bad, what is right and what is wrong and to try as much as possible to capture or consider every possible scenario of human, business or government interaction within reason. The law is rigid and exerts penalties even up to and including the actual death of a person or persons either at the hands of the police or following a judgment in court. Let me restate this, the law has guidelines determining whether you should be allowed to continue to exist on earth, or not. The law also can define a penalty that results in the absolute and total loss of personal property, money or freedom (time), reputation and so on, depending on the circumstances – fair, just and true, or not. Over time, the law became such a complex mechanism that specialists had to be trained to understand and to help people understand and navigate it. Some of these individuals – known as lawyers – are so highly skilled and knowledgeable as to be able to find loopholes within the law to allow even those who have contravened it to escape from the consequences of their actions either partially or entirely. It is also possible for those who did not actually do anything to be found guilty of something, using police, lawyers and that same law. These individuals are then forced to face punishments they absolutely do not deserve.
Just like any other tool, the law can be used for the purposes of the betterment or the destruction of society. The law was probably initially intended as an instrument of justice, social protection and cohesion, but, regardless of country, it has often been found terribly lacking and has even been employed to serve evil and unjust persons, corporations and governments, who are seeking their own end, which is the exact opposite of what the law is said to exist for.
Some say that the law originated in ancient Greece and Rome, others say it originated with God on Mt. Sinai, when He gave the Ten Commandments and the law, others may suggest that it began in the Garden in Eden with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. For what is the law of man, except for a delineation of behavior along the lines of what is good and what is evil and the mapping out of the consequences of choosing one over the other? These consequences then become the tool of control used to deter such behavior in the rest of the population and thereby maintain ‘law and order’ through the use of the threat of the stick. If you’re ‘good’ you live in fear of being found to be ‘bad’ somehow – according to the law – and if you’re bad you wait for your proverbial 40 days to end. God help us!
I want to suggest two things to you for consideration:
1. The Law was not made by God, but rather is solely a creation of man; and
2. God has spent eons trying to rescue man from the foolishness of the law.
To paint this picture, let’s head back to the beginning of all things and take a brief but reflective stroll through time; “In the beginning, God..” did not make the law and He gave Adam only 1 do and 1 do not: freely eat alllll of this but do not eat that one thing, “for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” But isn’t that a law? No. That is faith, Hebrews 11. Enter the serpent, the eating of that which was forbidden happened and man’s eyes were opened to know what is good and what is evil. Dichotomy entered between God and man, and man’s true nature, died. Which is fine, it was needful, so don’t be too hard on Adam or Eve. With the death of the true man, the increase of the knowledge of good and evil created a need to govern relationships not on the basis of love, but on the basis of laid down steps and procedures. Law = laid down, fixed or set (etymonline.com). Did you notice that even then God did not produce any rules governing their existence? He simply removed them from the Garden, for their own protection, and then He finally expressed His standard of living in writing about two thousand years later through the Ten Commandments and the law that He gave the people of Israel. Even then this standard was to show them just how much they needed Mercy and Grace instead of the judgment of the law, because of the high, high quality of His standard that they could in no way ever hope to attain by themselves.
Anyway, the Israelites decided they wanted the impossible standard, instead of just being humble and admitting to themselves and Him that there was no way they could hack it. The law that God gave was IMPOSSIBLE to follow, it was the equivalent of a trick question, but these guys instead chose what Adam and Eve chose after they chopped that fruit, they chose the knowledge of good and evil, the dichotomy, the laid down rules and procedures. Keep in mind they broke these with regularity, but God kept using their disobedience to illustrate His Mercy and Goodness. The people didn’t get it though and continued to live like animals, requiring an eye for an eye, choosing to live by the sword, choosing to punish ‘evil doers’ even while being evil themselves, eventually nailing the Word that came to fulfill the law that they claimed they followed to the Cross. Blind as bats. They did and still do just like every other nation did and still does to date i.e. create a set of rules and regulations to live by that often make no sense, break all of them, punish the ones who are too weak to challenge the laws (financially or whatever) and proceed as if they are not living a major contradiction, lie and betrayal or that there are no consequences that await.
Many times, the Israelites were comfortable with the idea and act of condemning the innocent and sparing the guilty. Sometimes these acts were committed by men who set themselves as rulers and holy men, the so-called highest standard in the land i.e. the ‘elites’. Compare that with a president who will order the arrests of those caught in the act of corruption, while conveniently protecting his family and cronies or even himself, yet they are all guilty of doing the same thing. Consider the numerous cases worldwide of people who were sentenced to lengthy prison terms, even death sentences, who were actually wrongly accused. Consider the greedy person, corporation or government that decides it wants the land that you and your family have owned for hundreds of years and so they use the court system to take it away from you and declare you landless. Just like the fig tree leaves, the law, a system built and created and established by man to cover his nakedness is what they turn to, to try cover their failures and ineptitude and mostly, rebellion against a true connection with God.
Parents, teachers, governments, employers and others in positions of authority have to understand one thing, people are inherently wired to identify and reject injustice and dishonor. It is innately wired in us by God, for various reasons. This is what those ‘in charge of things’ tend to think of as a person being ‘ungovernable’ or ‘difficult’. They are not. They have simply observed a contradiction somewhere or spotted dishonor somewhere or identified injustice that they naturally reject. If rulers, business leaders and even parents fail to understand this, they will quickly respond to this reaction with the force of law, but if they care to dig deeper and understand, they will quickly find out that the root cause is based on simple logic. The individual in question has taken note of contradictions between what is written as law and what is done by the ‘ruling class’ in reality and they ask why they are subject to a matter that the people in charge themselves do not honor. It is not complicated. One’s moral authority to establish rule of law is directly related to their own honoring of the same rule of law. Without this honor they lose all spiritual and moral authority and will as a matter of course have to resort to physical force or threats of physical force in order to gain compliance. This results in a cycle of defiance, rebellion and the threat or use of force, on and on and could end badly for either party.
I often wonder whether governments feel at a loss of what to do when it comes to the management of people, and then I realize that they do and that this bewilderment is displayed in the actions that they take concerning the people. Then I wonder why they do not simply humble themselves and come gently and softly to the people who hired them in the first place and say to them, “Let’s work out a solution together that we can all live up to,” but I find that it is difficult for heavily compromised, arrogant and corrupt people to even admit error or to calm down and come down to the level of a simple person (which they are. as you find once they lose their positions) and dialogue as friends, sans the law.
The law does nothing except create dichotomy after dichotomy. It cannot do anything else. That is its nature. The law is divisive, pure and simple. Good and bad, right and wrong, those are the criteria it recognizes… unless you have a really great lawyer or in some cases, pockets deep enough to line the coffers of a judge and jury substantially. There is, therefore, no justice in the world and in light of this injustice, there is no order, because the people who have entrusted the system to their proxies for effective management have taken note that their trust has been dishonored and they rebel in one form or another, noses out and plastic bags in the freezer. Alternatively they are simply kept in check through the use of force or the threat of it. The law simply has no life to offer because even when fully obeyed, it turns the minds and the hearts of the people into those who are solely focused on satisfying the expectations of one another and defining and designing a reality filled with ever-increasing guidelines, rules, policies and laws that continue to trap them in a world where they will never fulfill their purpose or know true liberty.
The question is, what are we to do? Many will shudder at the thought of a country or world that is unbound by the guidelines provided by the law and will firmly and in the strongest of terms seek to defend it. But I have a question. Can we sincerely say that the law has managed to provide order or has it actually been the instrument of great injustice? Truth be told, the law has provided greater access and control to those who seek lordship over others to do whatever they feel like at any point in time and simply change what is written to suit their own ends. By so doing, the law has itself become the system that supports and engenders the injustice that it says it exists to stop.
I fervently believe that despite the general argument that the law enables us to protect the weak and the innocent from those who would harm them, that the exact opposite is true and that furthermore, the law has become the tool by which the fallen nature of man is actually allowed to thrive and perpetuate from generation to generation. That the prison system has become a for-profit business run by private sector entities in some countries, that security is now a commercial sector contributing taxes to the government, that people need professionals to interpret what should have been a simple code of honor between themselves (no offense to the professionals concerned, some are my family members) but that these are actually corporate concerns that are now contributing to the capitalist system, should tell you something about the law. Much like the approach taken to enforce the Covid-19 requirements in most countries, where there is no active push to build up the immunity of the people through diet, exercise, exposure to sunlight and fresh air, similarly the approach to the law has not been an attempt to rehabilitate the people who were said to have erred, nor has it been an attempt to repair what aspects of dishonor and injustice exist in society that triggered the behaviors that these people displayed. Rather, the approach to the law has been one of identifying types of people known as ‘criminals’ and building a system to punish them. It’s funny, but not funny when you look back and learn some of society’s origin stories. There is a pastor I heard say once that the pioneers in America started prisons to isolate errant members of the society from the general community for a time, invest love and energy to help them understand their errors and help rehabilitate them using Bible teachings so that they could return and be productive members of society. He said that they were so successful at doing this that the government thought, “What a great idea,” and took over the program and the result is what you see today. Many who are incarcerated are not guilty, those who are continue to run their criminal activities even from prison, those who were not guilty sometimes turn to crime themselves, those who are released sometimes continue where they left off and meanwhile the society that caused the problem in the first place remains the same or gets increasingly worse in nature and continues to produce ‘criminals’.
I watched a video recently which was recorded in 2019, where two men in South Afrika were being interviewed about what they do. They candidly said that they were criminals who rob and threaten people. When asked why, they said, “We want money.” They explained their predicament clearly, they need money in order to engage in society but because of their background they cannot get employed in order to earn money and so they have resorted to crime so that they can have money to buy food, to have a place to live and so on. That is the society we have created and seem to work so diligently to defend. One in which those who lack resources are deemed to somehow be wicked or failures in some shape or form and it is an acculturated belief too. The ones who have money and status say that you have to work hard to earn status in life, but have no answer to give to the construction worker or manual laborer who truly does exert both muscle and brain to his labors diligently and faithfully. Why do they not have this money? I was in my forties before I realized that a person who doesn’t have money is not evil or deficient in some way… can you kindly tell me how exactly I came to believe that one who doesn’t have is evil? Can you? Because I can’t really pinpoint the day that I learnt this lesson and yet this belief was ingrained in my psyche somehow and, until I tasted it for myself firsthand, and realized that my condition was not a result of my morality or any physical or mental deficiency, I totally lacked empathy for others. Seeing them as victims or lazy people who had failed in society somehow. It is a sad, sad day for the world.
When prominent or rich individuals, companies, politicians and governments get away with the same crimes that they throw others in prison for and when they continue to do the things that create insecurity, poverty, injustice and other of society’s ills, what exactly are they expecting the outcome to be? Making a policeman smile when he is questioning a suspect, in order to create better relations with the community, doesn’t make that judge who committed a crime and got away with it innocent. Imprisoning an individual for poisoning a child, when the government mandates vaccines that have been proven by their own science to have side effects that are detrimental to the child’s health in the immediate and long-term, sends a very clear message to people: continue in your crime, the government does it after all. To me, it makes about as much sense to keep the law in place as it does to keep granting licenses to companies that manufacture plastics, when you say you’re trying to protect the environment or authorizing and promoting the use of pesticides by law which have been proven to cause cancer and other grave illnesses. It is simply engendering the problem. It is not changing anything, except giving people the false impression that justice is upheld in a country or the accurate impression that there is no justice and the country is hypocritical in nature and encourages such hypocrisy in its citizenry.
What do I suggest, you may ask. I look at all these things and I say, surely there must be a better way. I recognize the power of God to change a man, because I know what I used to be. First things first, we need to admit to ourselves that we are living a lie and that we need help and seek that help most sincerely from Him. We need to restore the code of honor between men, where one gives their word to do something good and honors it, not this psychosis and dysfunction that we entertain, where someone will promise to do something and then ghost you as if you offended them when they are the ones that opened their mouths and made that commitment. Let’s build together what makes sense and contributes genuinely to love and brotherhood, instead of suffering under inferior societal norms and complaining about them every day. If they don’t serve us, surely we should change what’s not working, instead of whining about what isn’t or being afraid to be called dissidents because we have seen what is wrong and we are calling it what it is. We need to a culture, where we recognize that some people genuinely do bad things (rich or poor) and come up with a way of responding to all of them fairly and in the same way, not based on their bank accounts or their family name and to have the courage to do that. We need to get away from the law and get back to hearts of justice and compassion, and recognize that these work in tandem with other issues that need to be resolved as well in society like respect, compassion, mercy, kindness, love. The things that are broken within and around us are basically relational and heart issues run amok. The world got so obsessed with letting everybody just be happy doing whatever they want to do, that they forgot that this is simply madness and they created a system to answer a heart issue. That’s completely the wrong way to handle anything to do with the heart and mind. The law doesn’t work. The law does not offer justice or bring social cohesion and balance. It never has and it never will. Love, however, has answer for all things. Read 1 Corinthians 13 for yourself and see what would happen if we actually practiced what is written there daily.
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Chioma Phillips is the Editor of Msingi Afrika Magazine. She is also the founder of the magazine's publisher, The Knowledge Consultancy Limited, which shares information, tools and insights to provoke thought and inspire movement... towards God. Her perspective goes beyond national boundaries to see the full scope of what God is saying and doing for the continent of Africa and the world in these end times.