If every person in the world was perfect like Jesus, people everywhere could live in harmony without tension, but unfortunately that is not the way it is. Sin is pervasive. When people live in close proximity, sin makes people hurt each other and take things that others have worked hard to make. When sin takes hold, some people become violent and dangerous. Society needs a way to restrain the worst effects of sin, without hindering human freedom. Every human society needs laws to function smoothly.
Violence and theft really disrupt the relationships between the people living together in a community. If I am proud and arrogant, my neighbours may not like me, but they are not harmed. They can just ignore me. However, if I steal from them, they suffer. If I am violent, someone will get hurt. A good society needs protection from theft and violence.
There are three ways that another person can harm me. They can steal my possessions, assault my body, or lie about my character. Lies, theft, and assault are sins that directly harm other people. Laws that deal with these sins protect the structure and security of society.
Law provides a standard that allows human judges to make consistent decisions. If judges decide each case on the basis of their personal opinion, justice would become a lottery. Decisions would vary between judges, and a particular judge might made different decisions depending on his mood. Good laws proved judges with a consistent standard that prevents their decisions from being arbitrary.
Good law supports freedom. If only a limited range of actions are prohibited by law, everyone understands what they must not do. If we know what actions are illegal, we are free to take any other type of action. People can get on with life, knowing what actions are prohibited by the law. Provided they avoid theft and violence, they can do they like. This opens up a wonderful range of choices and brings great freedom.
Good law is important for any society. It is even more important in the Kingdom of God. The challenge is to obtain the best laws possible.
The prophet Habakkuk understood the purpose of law.
Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted (Hab 1:3, 4).
When law is ignored, strife and violence abound. Without law, justice is perverted and the wicked prevail. Good law reduces strife and violence, even in a society that has rejected God.
The consequence of our failure to understand the purpose of the law is prophesied in Proverbs.
Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law resist them. Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully (Prov 28:4,5).
When people forsake law, wicked people benefit. In the last century Christians have not just rejected God's law, they have lost interest in the concept of law altogether. The result is evil run rampant. Our failure to understand the role of law, has allowed evil and injustice to prevail.
God's is Best
God created humans and all the world. He knows and understands us perfectly. This puts him in the best place to design laws that work well.
For the LORD is our judge,
The LORD is our lawgiver,
The LORD is our king;
It is he who will save us (Isaiah 33:22).
God has infinite wisdom, so his laws will be perfect for us.
Paul understood that the law is a tool for dealing with people who disrupt the peace of society. This is a crucial verse.
We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers (1 Tim 1:7-9).
The law is used properly when it is used to restrain the evil that harms society. It law is not for the righteous. It is not for Christians. We must understand that the law is for thieves, murderers, adulterer and perjurers who would disrupt the peace and harmony of society. The righteousness of Jesus cannot deal with these people, while they are hostile to him. Until they are transformed by the love of Jesus, laws restrain their evil and prevent them from harming other people.
Just and Good
God's law provides a way of restraining the harm that is caused by people who are willing to harm others. His law is the best for every human society.
Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good (Rom 7:12).
What could be better for the functioning of society than a set of laws that are holy, just and good? Any other laws will be suboptimal. They will be partly unjust and not always good. Why would any society want to have suboptimal laws? God's law is the best, because he is God.
God's law is good. He is just and good, so his law is the best basis for a harmonious society. God has provided the law that every society needs.
God gave the law just when it was needed. Up until the time of Abraham, there was plenty of room in the world, so people did not need live in close proximity. When people had disputes, they just moved away from each other. By the time of Jacob, people were starting to live closer together and disputes over property were becoming prevalent (Jacob and Esau, Jacob and Laban). A system for resolving disputes was needed.
Then they went down to Egypt to live as slaves, with no choice but to accept the Egyptian system of justice. This changed when they escaped. With a million people living in a small country, disputes were bound to occur. God gave the law to deal with the problem. He gave it when it was needed, because God's timing is always perfect..
The law was a system of justice for dealing with disputes over property and violence towards people. God gave the law to restrain crime. It never had any other purpose and that purpose has not changed.
Law for Everyone
God's law was not just for Israel. It would make Israel into a great nation, but that was just a small part of God's purpose. His strategy was for the nations to see the effectiveness of his laws and copy them. He hoped that the nations would become jealous of Israel's judges and justice and borrow them. The other nations should look at their own laws and see that they are arbitrary, cumbersome and vindictive. When they saw God's law working, they should recognise God's wisdom and freely choose to live by his laws.
See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the LORD my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people." And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today (Deut 4:5-8)?
God intended Israel to demonstrate the benefits of his laws and system of justice to the surrounding nations.
God's influence would not grow through the expansion of the Israelite kingdom. Rather it would spread, as the nations copied the laws that God had given to Israel.
God's system was a unique combination of law and judges and no king. The other nations had human kings and arbitrary malicious laws. God's plan failed because Israel refused to accept his system. They chose a mixture of God's law and human kings that produced failure and insignificance. The nations never got to see the greatness of God's system of laws.
What a Great System
God expected the nations to look at Israel's laws and system of government and say "What a great system! Why don't we copy it!" Unfortunately, God could not get his own people to say these words. Instead, they looked at the nations with their kings and said, "What a great system. We need a King!"
God's plan has not changed. He still intends the nations to live under his law (Micah 4:2). The difference is that he now expects Christian society to demonstrate the greatness of his law. He expects Christians to come together and establish communities in which good judges emerge to apply the law of God. People outside these communities will look in on these communities and see peace and order and choose to adopt the same system of law and judges. The wisdom of the law should be evident to everyone.
With the coming of the gospel, the order has changed. In Old Testament times, God expected the nations to copy the judicial laws first. Once people had experienced the benefits of these laws, they would start to enquire about the God who given these laws and become interested in serving this god. The law came first, and loving God came second.
Since the coming of Jesus, the order has been reversed. When the gospel is preached and the nations accept Jesus as Lord, the should be taught to love God and to obey his laws
teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you (Matt 28:20).
The nations will love God first as they hear the gospel, and then apply his laws as they love his word.
God's plan has not changed. He still expects that nations to look at his laws and be amazed at their wisdom. There is one small problem with this grand plan. Christians have ignored his law . God cannot get his people to look at his laws and say "What wonderful laws!" He cannot even get them to look at the law, because most hate his law or are totally ignorant of its content. Instead, Christians look at democracy and say "What a great system! We want democracy".
This should be a wake up call for us. God expects people to look at his law and say "What a great system".
Oh, how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long.
Your commands make me wiser than my enemies,
for they are ever with me.
I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes.
I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts.
I have kept my feet from every evil path
so that I might obey your word.
I have not departed from your laws,
for you yourself have taught me.
How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
I gain understanding from your precepts;
therefore I hate every wrong path
(see Psalm 119:97-104).
We must have missed something. We have not understood the greatness of God's law. Perhaps it is time to have another look and find out what God was so excited about that he took the trouble to personally come down and give the law to his people through Moses.
Christians are confused about the purpose of the law (see Misunderstood Law). This is not surprising as even the people who received the Ten Commandments did not fully understand its role. God gave the law to Moses at a time when Israel was moving to live in a defined area of land to enable them to live together harmoniously. The Jews never full understood this.
The judicial case laws given in Exodus 21-23 make their purpose clear. They do not refer to personal holiness, but describe situations where people have harmed those living around them. They explain how to deal with people who do not respect their neighbour's life or property. Solutions are provided for fights between people and disputes over property. The judicial laws of Moses were designed to deal with the issues that arise when people live together in close proximity. This is the main purpose of the law.
The LORD commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today (Deut 6:24).
God provided the law so that his people could live together in harmony. Human nature has not changed, so we still need judicial laws.
In the modern world, people still hurt each other and disputes over property, so this need has not disappeared. God provided the law to resolve these problems and allow people to live together in harmony.
One of the wonders of the modern world is that Christians with God's law in their Bibles prefer living under man-made laws. They turn up their noses at God's law and choose laws made by a group of elected opportunists and power-seekers. Most Christians seem more enthusiastic about changing the political process to produce different man-made laws than they are about living under God's law.
In the United States, Christians are really stirred up about displaying the Ten Commandments in court rooms, but no one is suggesting that they should replace man-made law. Most American Christians believe that implementing a man-made constitution can produce good laws. They do not want to live under God's law. I can understand people outside the gospel rejecting the law, but something is seriously wrong when God's people reject his law in favour of living under man's law.
For the LORD is our judge,
The LORD is our lawgiver,
If God is our Lawgiver, we do not need politicians and human lawyers to write laws for us. God has given us the perfect standard for justice, so we would be foolish to live under human laws.
Human law has as least seven serious problems.
1. Arbitrary Morality
A human legislature cannot decide what is right and wrong. Humans do not have authority to decide morality. God is our creator, so all morality must start with his sovereignty. Right and wrong originate in his character. He is the only one who can decree what is correct behaviour.
God has already given us a perfect code of behaviour, but the human problem is one of behaviour and not one of knowledge. We always know what is right; it is written on our hearts. Our problem is doing what is right.
I realise that most citizens of western nations do not acknowledge God. That is their choice, but if there is no god, there is no absolute standard of right and wrong. We are then left with a moral relativism; where each person's opinion is good as another. A consensus on correct behaviour will be impossible.
Even if a broad consensus could be achieved, it would have no coercive power. In a society which values pluralism and tolerance any person would be free to opt out of the consensus. Today, we seem to have enshrined relativism as a god. However relativism provides no basis for coercing people to a particular kind of behaviour.
2. Totalitarian Law
Human law tends to become an instrument of virtue and forgets be a instrument of justice. It attempt to make people to lead virtuous lives. To achieve this virtue, the state must monitor every human action. When state starts power is used to force people to be good, horrendous totalitarianism often follows.
God's law is the best antidote to totalitarianism, because it puts boundaries on human behaviour. Within these boundaries people are free to do as they wish. This gives them great freedom. Provided people do not break the law, the state cannot interfere in their lives.
Elected politicians and parliaments tend to implement rule systems. They attempt to legislate for the whole of life by passing laws that cover every conceivable situation. Unfortnately, they are not omniscient, so they always get things wrong. Some rules will contradict others. Conflicting laws produce confusion and result in illogical and unjust decisions. Extra rules are added to clarify the muddle, but this adds to the uncertainty. Eventually the rule system gets so complicated that a law degree is needed to understand it.
A system of rules can never cover every possible situation. New circumstances always emerge, so new clauses or regulations have to be added to deal with them. As more and more rules are added, the law gets more convoluted. The rules become so numerous that people can no longer know them all. However, no matter how much detail is added to the rules, a new state of affairs will emerge that is an exception to the rules.
The Old Testament law is not a rule system. Moses talked about laws and verdicts (Deut 5:1). God gave several clear judicial laws. He also gave some straightforward examples of verdicts to shsow how these laws should be applied in practical situations. These examples are not exhaustive, but they are sufficient to explain how the law should be interpreted and applied.
The judicial laws are not absolutes, because there are always exceptions. For example, killing a person is unlawful, but might be legitimate if a person is defending their family from physical attack. Killing a person deliberately is different from killing a person by accident. The books of the law explain how the judicial laws apply in these different situations, but they do not try to cover every possible situation, because that would be impossible. God did not need to cover every possible situation, because we have the gift of the Holy Spirit and can work some things out for ourselves.
4. Continuous Law Reform
Human law-makers spell out their laws in enormous detail, but there are always situations that they did not foresee. Clever lawyers find loopholes and criminals escape justice, because the wording of the law is imprecise. Human laws constantly need to be updated and reformed.
This continuous law reform creates full-time work for the law-makers and lawyers, but causes a lot of confusion for ordinary citizens. The law is constantly changing, so people are uncertain about what is a crime. The law gets so detailed that even lawyers do not fully understand it. Human law gets strangled by this confusion.
God has a different approach. He did the task once and got it right. He clearly stated his judicial laws, so their meaning is straightforward and simple. They do not need to be updated or reformed.
God also gave some "case laws" to explain how his laws should be applied (Ex 21-23). These case laws explain the difference between manslaughter and murder. They give examples of stealing. The rest can be left to wise judges. This a better approach. God does not need to reform his law, because concepts like stealing and assault do not changes.
5. Impossible Burden
Jesus confronted the teachers of the law for placing an impossible burden upon the people. They took the Ten Commandments and converted them into about 600 regulations. An enormous edifice of complicated rules was then built on ten simple rules.
And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them (Luke 11:43-46).
The modern state has turned the Ten Commandments into millions of laws and regulations. These are so complicated that no lawyer can understand them all. Jesus would say that modern legistlators are blind guides.
We do not need elected politicians to create an enormous burden of regulations that cover every permutation of life. We need wise judges to interpret God's judicial laws in the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.
6. Politicians are Deluded
Politicians can only make human laws. Human laws are just words. On their own, they do not change anything. This makes politicians very dangerous, because they think that writing a law changes the world. Only God can speak and bring things into being (Rom 4:17).
God said, Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear." And it was so (Gen 1:9).
Human lawmakers act like gods. They think that they can remove every problem by writing laws. They call things into being, but nothing is so. People who think they are gods are deluded. Letting them make laws is foolish.
Christians claim to live under grace and not law and then jump out of the frying pan into the fire by choosing to live under human laws. Very few are troubled by this strange situation. I cannot understand why Christians living under grace would want to live under laws created by deluded people.
7. Politicians are Redundant
God's law makes politicians redundant. There is no evidence in the Bible of a group of people being elected to decide what the law should be. A parliament or congress is not needed because God had already provided his perfect law. This is a very important principle. We will not understand the kingdom of God, while we think that we need politicians to make laws for us. We already have a good and just law, so we do not need elected human representatives to craft legislation to improve our society.
Some Christians believe that the role of politicians is to write systems of legislation that translate God's law into the modern situation. We should be careful about this, lest we fall into the same trap as the Pharisees and teachers of the law. They tried to codify the law, but they just made it complicated and harder to understand. Jesus called them blind fools and hypocrites.
Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering (Luke 11:52).
Any codification of the law is likely to distort the truth and mislead people.
We are better to go Back to God's word to learn his law. It will have to be interpreted and applied in different situations, but can be done best by wise, local, trusted judges. Elected politicians do not have the skills to for this task.
Characteristics of Good Law
God's law is good and just. Here are some of the benefits of this law.
1. Negative Law
Judges have no authority until a crime happens if law is phrased negatively.
You shall not steal.
This negative wording is very important. This law has no implication for the behaviour of anyone who does not steal. This law has a penalty, but it only applies to those who steal. Judges can only apply this law to those who steal. People who do not steal are are free to do what they like with their money. This gives us great freedom. We can avoid the authority of judges, by not stealing. A negative law has no relevance for those who do not break it.
A positively stated law gives judges much greater power and greatly reduces freedom. Consider a positively stated law.
You must give all spare money to the poor
This law would gives judges the right to monitor and challenge every financial transaction. Juidges would have authority to check on every person who spends money. This would be an extremely dangerous power and we would lose much freedom. Paul explained this in Romans 13:3.
Judges hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. If you want to be free from fear of those in authority, do what is right.
This statement is only true if laws are expressed negatively. Positively expressed laws make judges a terror to everyone.
Biblical law does not give judges responsibility for forcing people to lead virtuous lives. The law cannot change human nature, so it cannot eliminate sin. The only solution to sin is being born again by the Holy Spirit in response to the gospel of Jesus. Under biblical law, judges can only restrain sin by punishing crimes; they must not attempt to make people good.
2. Sin and Crime
Biblical law makes an important distinction between crime and sin. Judges do not deal with all sin. They are limited to dealing with crimes.
This distinction between sin and crime is important. A crime is a sin that can be punished by judges, so defining crime places an important boundary around the activity of the state.
In God's law only a few sins are also crimes. For example, coveting is listed as a sin (Ex 20:17), but there is no punishment specified for coveting. Coveting is a sin, but it is not a crime. The obvious reason is that no judge could be certain that a person is coveting. No witness can testify that another person is coveting, because we cannot see into another person's mind.
This places an important limit on judges. They can only deal with actions. They must not attempt to control our thoughts. God's law does not attempt to eliminate all sin, as this would be impossible. It only deals with the few sins that really disrupt human society.
The bible specifies a punishment for theft. This means that theft is both a sin and a crime (Ex 22:1-4). Once a man acts on his coveting and steals from his neighbour, judges have authority to act against him. His actions are visible, so witnesses can observe and testify against him. Judges have a sound basis for dealing with theft because witnesses can be heard.
Crimes are a small subset of all of sins. They can be identified by determining whether biblical law specifies a punishment. If it a sanction is specified, the sin is the crime. If there is no sanction in the scriputes, a sin is not a crime.
Human judges have no authority to deal with a sin that is not specified as a crime, because God has reserved that task for himself. He can see into people's hearts, so he is best placed to deal with most sin.
The surprising truth is that the biblical law specifies only a few crimes.
3. Humble Law
God's law does not try to do too much. It attempts to prevent violence and theft by punishing stealing, assault and murder. It also protects the family by trying to minimise adultery. God's law recognises the limits of what can be achieved if hearts are not changed. For example, it gives up trying to prevent adultery in a society that is hard of heart (Matt 19:8). Often the best that God's law can do is minimise theft and violence. That is not a lot, but it is enough for society to live in relative harmony.
God's law does not try to eliminate evil or make people good. It leaves that to Jesus.
Now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify (Rom 3:21).
The law works in advance of Jesus by restraining the worst effects of sin. It does not try to eliminate sin. God's law points to Jesus ability to change hearts. Until the Holy Spirit have done their work. This is the best that law can do, but it is enough.
Human law always tries to do too much. Not content with preventing theft and violence, politicians try to solve ever problem: eliminate poverty, eradicate racism, transform the economy, save the environment, and all before lunch.
Human law tries to do everything, but succeeds at nothing, except destroying freedom and stealing income. And it is so busy trying to do everything that it fails to do the basic things like restraining theft and violence.
Human politicians are dangerous, because they think that they can change the world by writing laws. They forget that only God can speak and bring things into being (Rom 4:17, Lam 3:37).
Human lawmakers act like gods. They see a problem and write a law believing it will remove the problem. They call things into being, but nothing happens. They are not gods and their laws are just words, so nothing is changed . People who think they are gods are deluded, so letting them make laws is very risky.
4. Ambulance or Fence
A common view is that building a fence at the top of the cliff is better than having an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. This is not a biblical position. The state tries to create a fence at the top of the cliff. It puts in place thousands of rules and regulations to prevent people from coming to harm. God takes the opposite approach. He gives us freedom to live as we choose. His scriptures reveal what is right and what is wrong, and warn of the consequence of disobedience, but he will never force sinners to live righteously, if they are unwilling.
God will allows people to experience the consequences of their choices, but he will never stop them choosing. He wants people to obey him, because they love him, not because they are forced to. The most that he will do to make them obey him is the Holy Spirit's stirring in their conscience, but he does not prevent us from doing wrong. If people do wander into sin, he has provided remedy through Jesus.
God's approach is more like a sign at the top of the cliff and an ambulance at the bottom. If people ignore his warnings, he will not prevent them, but if they repent when they fall, he will rescue them. The benefit of this approach is that it encourages people to take responsibility for their lives.
This approach is better than the fence that politicians like to build. Their problem is that the cliff is so large and so rugged, that it is almost impossible to fence. They generally give up fencing the cliff, and put a fence round the mountain to prevent people going onto it at all. Their huge range of rules and regulations limit human freedom and prevent us from reaching our full potential. God's way is more risky, but it produces better results.
God's law is superior to human law.
We do not need elected politicians to write laws and regulations to cover every possible situation. We need good judges to interpret the God's judical laws using the method of application described in the books of the law. God is our lawmaker. He has given us all the law that we need, so we do not need politicians to make laws for us.
Good judges are all that we need in addition to the law. God has provided his standard for justice in the law. Our challenge is to apply God's law to the modern world.
The Judges Job
Under God's law, there are just two laws for judges to apply.
Theft (including false witness)
Assault (including murder)
A judge's job is really quite simple. These are very straightforward concepts. We do not need a lot of clever politicians to tell us what they mean. We just need good judges to apply them wisely.
These laws all that is needed for a harmonious society. If there is no, cheating, stealing or violence, society will be peaceful and free.
The Bible gives a number of examples that assist with the definition of theft.
Stealing another person's property is theft.
If a man steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep (Ex 22:1).
Disputes over the ownership of property are a form of theft.
When men have a dispute, they are to take it to court and the judges will decide the case, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty (Deut 25:1).
Assault is a form of theft
If men quarrel and one hits the other with a stone or with his fist and he does not die but is confined to bed, the one who struck the blow will not be held responsible if the other gets up and walks around outside with his staff; however, he must pay the injured man for the loss of his time and see that he is completely healed (Ex 21:18,19)
The person committing the assault must be forced to compensate the victim everything that is lost. He must also pay for all medical expenses and pay compensation for any permanent injuries.
Breach of contract
If a man gives his neighbor silver or goods for safekeeping and they are stolen from the neighbor's house, the thief, if he is caught, must pay back double. But if the thief is not found, the owner of the house must appear before the judges to determine whether he has laid his hands on the other man's property (Ex 22:7,8).
Failure to fulfil a contract that has been freely agreed is a form of theft and is dealt with in the same way as any other theft.
The Bible gives clear guidelines on the nature of theft. Judges should be able to decide any new situations that emerge by applying these guidelines.
When politicians get hold of the concept of theft, we get very strange results. A large corporation can steal million of dollars and not be prosecuted due to a technicality and a young boy steals a can of coke, but gets off free because the police are to busy to deal with him.
The eighth commandment provides a justification for private property. Something that lawfully belongs to one person cannot be taken by another without permission. This is a basic principle of justice (taxation is also theft).
Perjury and dishonest dealing are different forms of theft. The law gives several examples of what is meant by false witness.
Giving false evidence to a court is the most serious form of false witness.
If a malicious witness takes the stand to accuse a man of a crime The judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against his brother, then do to him as he intended to do to his brother (Deut 19:16-19).
False witness can lead to disputes about ownership of property.
In all cases of illegal possession. property about which somebody says, 'This is mine,' both parties are to bring their cases before the judges (Ex 22:9).
Slander is another form of false witness.
Assault is any action that causes physical injury to another person. They Bible gives several examples of assault
Striking another person intentially is assault.
If men quarrel and one hits the other with a stone or with his fist (Ex 21:18).
Striking a servant is not permitted.
If a man hits a manservant or maidservant in the eye and destroys it (Ex 21:26).
Murder is a special case of assault. It is the the unlawful killing of another person. The law gives examples that set the boundaries around murder.
Killing a person in reasonable self defence is not murder.
If a thief is caught breaking in and is struck so that he dies, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; but if it happens after sunrise, he is guilty of bloodshed (Ex 22:2)
An accidental death is not murder,
if he does not do it intentionally, but God lets it happen (Ex 21:12)
A person cannot be held accountable for things beyond their control.
Intent is important. Murder occurs,
If a man schemes and kills another man deliberately (Ex 21:12)
Intentional killing of an unborn child can be murder
If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman's husband demands and the court allows. (Ex 21:22).
In this example, the men's action was unintentional, so it is treated as assault. If their action was intentional, their crime would be murder.
The biblical examples that help define the crimes of theft, false witness, assault and murder are all common sense. They have been borrowed by most modern legal systems. They provide judges with good principles to apply when deciding difficult cases.
Turning the Other Cheek
Many Christians are confused about the relationship between the judicial laws of Moses and the Sermon on the Mount. These two principles have very different purposes and the latter does not cancel the former. The judicial laws are the minimum requirement for the functioning of a society. If theft, murder and false witness are not controlled, society will fall apart. Turning the other check is a higher standard for those who have chosen to follow Jesus.
Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also (Matt 5:39)
Turning the other cheek is voluntary. We cannot force a person to love someone who hurts him. That level of behaviour must be motivated by love. On the other hand, judges can use their moral authority to enforce the judicial laws. Judges can turn up the heat of community pressure in a way that will make the thief want to restore what they have stolen.
The second difference is that the judicial laws are compulsory for everyone, whether they love God or hate him. Turning the other cheek is only for the body of Christ. Serious followers of Jesus must not use force against those who harm them, but are required to "turn the other cheek". This sacrificial love marks Christians off from the rest of the world.
Turning the other cheek should not be made into a law, as it would prevent judges from doing their work. They have biblical authority to specify negative sanctions on law breakers. If the entire community must "turn the other cheek", evil men could prosper.
Force and Violence
Force and violence are different. Force is exercised by a legitimate authority in a controlled manner. Violence is unrestrained forces. When force is exercised by a person without authority, it becomes violence. When a person with authority, exercises force in an excessive manner, it becomes violence. This important distinction not well understood. Many people describe all force as violence, yet they want the protection that the law provides. These two ideas are inconsistent. If there is no legitimate force, there can be no protection from violence.
Voluntary military leaders can use force to protect the people of their community from external invaders. Christian men can use force to defend their community, but when acting as individuals they are required to always "turn the other cheek".
If Christian arrives home and finds his daughter being raped, he should not just tell her to "turn the other cheek". He is entitled to use force to set her free. As the head of his household, he has authority to protect his household, but he must not use exercise excessive force or seek revenge. He should leave punishment of this crime to a legitimate judge.
Similarly, a person seeing a child being beaten up by some youths has a responsibility to use force to protect the child. However, he must not use excessive force or attempt to punish the rapist.
A parent has authority to use force to protect their children. If a child kicks his mother on the shins, when she asks him to do something, the Father does not have to "turn the other cheek". He has authority to restrain the child.