Law is a word that fools us. Since law has serious impact on our lives we need to understand the term and how to use it properly. Importantly, we need to be aware of how it is used against us.
Some people come under the penalty of law, when the “law” used against them was not a “law” at all. You are most likely fooled by the use of “law”. So it is important that you understand the word, how it is used and what implications it has in your life.
Law is a Vague Term
Some words are used in multiple applications, with different meanings. A young woman tells her infant brother that she wishes to marry a man because she ‘loves’ him. The infant then replies that he is going to marry chocolate, because he ‘loves’ chocolate.
Love is used so broadly that its technical meaning varies in different situations. You can love sport while sport is not the love of your life. You can love your spouse, but also love getting away on your own.
The ancient Greeks used several different words for our English word ‘love’, differentiating between: attraction to the appearance of a thing; humanitarian or family concern; sexual attraction; and sacrificial commitment for the good of others.
Law is similarly a vague term. It refers to such unchangeable things as the laws of nature, but also to such changeable things as the rules of a club.
It’s the Law
When someone informs you that something “is the Law!” you can be misled as to their meaning. What type of ‘law’ is it? Who made that law? By what is it enforced? What are the consequences of breaking that law? Who is bound by that law?
Many things are the ‘law’ and have profound consequences for some people, yet can be completely ignored by others. Just because something is “the law” doesn’t mean most of us have to give any credence whatsoever. The trick is to know what is ‘law’ and what is ‘law’. That is, we need to differentiate between one law and another.
Others May but I May Not
A police officer is bound by more laws than the average citizen. Anyone who has sworn an oath of office, taking on special responsibility, is under stricter controls than normal citizens. For example, ordinary citizens are not bound by law to give their name to a police officer, but a police officer must give his name to any citizen who asks for it.
Lawyers and Barristers have sworn special allegiance to the courts, in order to be allowed to deal with the special legal matters of the court. So an ordinary citizen has much greater freedom in a court of law than their legal team does.
It is a case of “others may, but I may not”. Others may ignore the instructions or demands of a judge, but a barrister does not have that privilege. Others may ignore the demands of a police officer (under certain circumstances) but a police officer may not ignore the demands made of him or her.
Categories of Laws
Here are some of the various types of law that impact you in your normal life. There is Divine Law, Natural Law, Common Law, Imperial Law, Constitutional Law, Statute Law, Local By-Laws, Club Rules and House Rules. There are also such laws as the Laws of Nature, Maritime Law, Contract Law and International Law.
Divine Law involves mankind’s moral accountability to the Creator, who is the ultimate moral being and who holds all people accountable against His own moral standards. Such laws as the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Jesus Christ convey man’s moral responsibility to God’s Law.
Natural Law involves the natural rights and responsibilities which attend natural existence. Such things as the right to self-defence and the right to maintain and sustain life are included here.
While Divine and Natural Law seem to be the most basic foundation for law, they are not man-made, but spring from either the nature of our existence or the One who created us. So the next areas of ancient law (Common Law and Imperial Law) represent the early expressions of human law which have passed to many nations.
Common Law is the body of laws which developed in England over centuries, where God’s Law, especially as expressed in the Book of Deuteronomy, was applied to situations and codified into a body of rights and responsibilities. Common Law is principally focussed on limiting people’s impact on others (no murder, injury or theft) and making people accountable for their own actions (bound by their promises).
Imperial Law involves all the laws of English monarchs, which further codified Biblical, Natural and Common Law into principles by which due legal process is to be applied. Such documents as the Magna Carta from over 700 years ago are still upheld as foundations for legal practice and principle followed today. Most English speaking and former British Empire nations have ratified their continued reliance on Imperial Law. Imperial Laws have not decayed with time, but are enduring elements of what is law and lawful today.
While all those laws mentioned so far are perfectly modern in their validity, most unlearned citizens think of them as somehow outmoded and not relevant today. Modern people think of their nation’s constitution and the government-enacted laws (statutes) as modern law.
Constitutional Law involves that body of law which is created to define a nation and how it will operate, politically and legally. Many nations have a constitution: that which constitutes (brings together) the nation itself. All of the parts are the constituents. All legal and political practice within the nation has to be based on the law that “constitutes” (or creates) the nation.
Statute Law involves all those “laws” which are created by governments. Once a nation has been constituted (via its Constitution) its elected or appointed officials may need to create the Rules for the effective operation of the nation. Those “laws” are actually “statutes”. They are rules which are given the force of law, and are generally treated as equal to those higher laws upon which the government has been founded. Statutes are binding upon the members of the club or society which created them.
Local Law involves those rules which are created by local councils, regional administrations, clubs (for their members), social organisations, etc. For example: a student at one school is told that he must wear a particular uniform on certain days. But that localised rule, while effectively the “law” for some students, has absolutely no hold over students attending a different school. One local council may prohibit the lighting of fires in people’s yards, while the neighbouring city might encourage such fires. Local laws only apply to those who are bound by them, by membership of some group or other.
Question The Law
Which laws apply to you? If other people create a rule for them and their club, does that have any hold over you? Is the law being applied to you a Divine moral responsibility, or is it simply a statute made up to facilitate social order?
Is the law that is being pressed upon you really a law at all? If a local or statute law is against the higher laws on which they stand, then can it be a lawful law at all?
Can a government morally uphold a law that rejects or breaks God’s Law? Can a local or state government legally create a law that violates that nation’s Constitution?
When someone tells you “It’s the Law”, what do they really mean? It may be “law” for them, but is it law for you? If two laws contradict each other, which law should you obey?
A Lawful Mind
The information and questions in this lesson are to prompt you to know where you stand before the law and how you should respond to the laws you are told to obey. I want you to have a deeper and richer understanding of the law than many of those around you who say, “It’s the Law!”
Give these matters some serious thought and seek to develop a wise and lawful mind.