Members of the Sonderkommando burn corpses of Jews in pits at Auschwitz II-Birkenau, an extermination camp.

What Is Lawlessness?

What is the difference between the law and lawlessness? Why do we need laws? The answers to these questions seem obvious to people who think the law is important. Others have little respect for the law. Some people even fancy themselves as outlaws. Because their ancestors were outlaws, some people even have the last name of “Lawless.” Moreover, it is not uncommon for us to celebrate outlaws for their daring and ingenuity.

Are laws necessary? Have you ever wondered what a truly lawless society would look like? Since we are so sinful, we actually have a good idea of what a lawless society would look like. That is, we know what characterizes a lawless society. Is it the absence of laws or rules? Consider the definition of law.

a binding custom or practice of a community: a rule of conduct or action prescribed (see PRESCRIBE sense 1a) or formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority

To understand the need for the law, we must understand the importance of the term “community.” When people live together in community (see, they live in communion with or fellowship with each other. Because the people in a community value each other, communities create laws to protect the members of the community and the relationships that they have with each other.

So, when both lawless societies and lawful societies have rules that their governments insist that people must follow, how do we tell the difference between a lawless and a lawful society? Often, there isn’t a clear distinction. That is because from time-to-time all of us fail to resist the temptation to use the law to exploit our neighbors. Nevertheless, at various times some societies have been almost completely lawless, and these stand out for the horrors they created. Nazi Germany, the USSR, Red China, and various other nations became so lawless that their governments engaged in genocide, using the law to permit the extermination of relatively large percentages of their own populations. Did any of these nations lack for laws? No, but their governments had no interest in justice.

To Be Continued

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