Not Sons of Anarchy
St. Luke, Evangelist
18 October 2018
During the acute fuel shortage which attended the approach of Hurricane Rita to Houston in 2005, there were reports of people who took the law into their own hands. In one such incident, a man waiting in a fuel line decided that he would move to the head of the line and attempted to enforce his will by waving a revolver in the face of the others in the line. He was able to enforce his will upon the others, but only until the forces of the local constabulary arrived. At which point he was taken by the police where he had very little need of gasoline. He now was going nowhere (fast!).
 
This un-neighborly fellow was taking the law into his own hands. He had no authority to do so. God places authority into the hands of government to enforce good order and external peace upon society. Good order may not be a matter of private decision. Our community can only be safe where the rule of law is enforced. The fifth commandment, "You shall not murder," gives to government the right of defending society's safety even to the point of executing criminals (Rm 13:1-4), so that the enforcement of the law is not a matter of private action. The fifth commandment deals with our relationships beyond our families in our community.
 
Private vendettas are forbidden by God. We may not take out our wrath against evil doers on our own initiative. In the years before ATS began screening airline passengers so carefully, a man waited for a federal marshal to escort his daughter's murderer off of a commercial airline flight. He stood at a bank of pay phones (this was before there were cell phones) and as they approached, he turned shooting the criminal dead. This act of personal vengeance was captured on surveillance cameras in the airport. Like it or not, we must wait for the slowly grinding mill of human justice to work for God in bringing justice to those who deserve it. We don't get to take the law into our own hands, no matter how much we might dislike the outcomes. We all deserve this, including us. Otherwise, anarchy will break out. And we are not Sons of Anarchy.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"Now we go forth from our house among our neighbors to learn how we should live with one another, everyone himself toward his neighbor. Therefore, God and government are not included in this commandment. Nor is the power to kill taken away, which God and government have. To punish evildoers, God has delegated His authority to the government, not parents. In earlier times, as we read in Moses, parents were required to bring their own children to judgment and even to sentence them to death (Deut 21:18-21). Therefore, what is forbidden in this commandment is forbidden to the individual in his relationship with anyone else, but not the government."

Martin Luther, 
Large Catechism,
1.180-81
Deuteronomy 21:18-23

If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, 'This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.' Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.
 
And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance. (ESV)
Prayer
Dear Lord, thank you for establishing public authority and the rule of law in the world. Lead us to be obedient to that law that we might live peaceable lives in all godliness. Amen.
 
For all the Officers of the Houston Police Department and all defenders of the public peace, that they might be upheld in every good deed
 
For all those who are responding to the needs of the hurricane-stricken communities all along the Gulf Coast of Florida, that God the Lord would be with them as they try to return municipal services to those communities
 
For J. Bart Day, that he might be blessed in his labors as he supports the ministry of the LCMS through the work of LCEF
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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