The “rule of law” is a term we hear these days, but do you know what it means?
I am sure there are different definitions, but I recently came across an organization called the “World Justice Project.” They define the rule of law as the underlying framework of rules and rights that make prosperous and fair societies possible. The rule of law is a system in which no one, including government, is above the law; where laws protect fundamental rights; and where justice is accessible to all.
They list four universal principles on their website that must be upheld in order to make the claim one is adhering to the “rule of law.” These universal principles can be summarized by saying that the rule of law must be easily understood and must be enforceable in an even and consistent manner by competent, ethical and independent representatives.
As a nation the United States makes the claim that one of the great advantages of our society is that we adhere to the rule of law and that no one in our country is above the law. But is that true? Of course, if we compare ourselves to countries involved in civil wars with chaotic governments and ruled by dictators, it would seem as though it is true. But is that a fair comparison?
We are often told that the basis of our law is found in Judeo-Christian principles and specifically in the 10 Commandments. In fact, it could be said that the basis of our entire justice system is the commandment against bearing false witness, the ninth of the 10. Without truthful testimony or witnesses, how could we ever make the claim that we are under the rule of law? Don’t the absence of truth and a method to enforce the telling of the truth make this claim seem a bit hollow?
Consider the most recent accusations made by Congress against government officials. Attorney General Eric Holder, the highest law enforcement officer in the United States was accused of lying to Congress. The legal term is perjury. But Attorney General Holder argues that he did not lie to Congress. But his defense seems to be more about parsing words than one of substance.
Again, I ask, are we a nation under law or are we not? Or is our justice system collapsing as we lose the ability to find the truth and punish those who do not tell the truth?
Whenever someone testifies before Congress or in a court of this land he is asked to swear that he will tell “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” It is even requested that he place his hand on the Bible as though that simple exercise will produce a truthful testimony.
Here at Life, Hope &Truth we explain how one can live a better life. But in all honesty such a life requires a willingness to live under the “rule of law” as a general statement and more specifically God’s law, the 10 Commandments.
If every country would make a concerted effort to enforce the rule of law when it comes to telling the truth, what a different world it would be! I don’t believe for a single moment that our world is going to wake up and begin enforcing in an equitable manner the requirement for truth in all testimony. But that fact should not prevent us from insisting that, at least in our own lives we are committed to following that principle.
Jesus Christ said it succinctly but clearly–whenever we are dealing with each other or testifying before a body of officials, let your yes be yes and your no, be no. I once heard it said, when in doubt, just tell the truth. What a refreshing approach that would be! Yes, the rule of law has become lost in a cascade of words to the point it becomes almost meaningless. When government officials can lie to Congress or to the citizens without any fear of retribution, then one must ask if we truly are living under the rule of law in our own country.
For Life, Hope & Truth, I’m Jim Franks