Williamston and Okemos are two cities that are a part of the Greater Lansing area, where we live. Whereas we live on the west side of Lansing, they are east and south-east respectively.
I’ve just finished reading a short book on a particularly gruesome murder that took place in Williamston in 1897. The book told the story of a man who came home for lunch (dinner as it was then), to find his mother’s head on his dinner plate. His wife had gone crazy and killed her mother-in-law.
The murder is not as interesting as the detailed descriptions of life in Lansing at the time, almost 120 years ago. In 1897 many people could still remember when the city of Lansing was chosen as the state capital. The city was served by a number of railway lines, none of which exist now.
What was particularly interesting to me was the fact that the murderer was charged, tried and sentenced within six days. Yes, six days! What a contrast to today, where a trial may take more than a year, sentencing months and punishment is often delayed for years. Will Dzhokhar Tsarnaev ever actually be put to death? His victims died instantly!
Reading the book, I was reminded of the scripture in Ecclesiastes 8:11 which says: “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.”
It’s no wonder that we are seeing more crimes of violence when our legal system is a joke. The system has little to do with justice.
Another legal issue came up in the book. Again, the contrast with today is quite marked.
The murderer was sentenced to life in an asylum. She died about eighteen months later from tuberculosis.
Her husband, meanwhile, turns up again in the historical record, three years after the murder. He was found co-habiting with a woman in Okemos, a few miles away. They were both charged with “lewd and lascivious behavior.” He was sentenced to ten months and she got eight. That’s curious in itself. I’m sure they were both equally to blame, so, therefore, why were their sentences different? But they both went to jail.
America today, with less than 5% of the world’s population, has 25% of the world’s prisoners. Can you imagine what our prisons would be like if all those co-habiting were sentenced to a jail term? If biblical commands were upheld in our communities, we would need a lot more jails and prisons for long-term offenders.
I was reminded of this last Friday when the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all fifty states. Can you imagine what the village elders would have done in 1900 Okemos if they had found two men co-habiting?
It shows how far we have come as a country. And not just us, other western nations are the same.
Many Christians interpret the latest Supreme Court decision as a sign that the end of the age cannot be far off, that just as God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah when they were beyond being saved, that the US and other nations must face the same. A number of conservatives said that the decision was a blow to marriage.
But the fact is that Friday’s decision is just the latest blow to marriage.
Marriage laws were progressively weakened throughout the twentieth century and churches said nothing. In 1971 no-fault divorce became the law across the country, a decision that, arguably, did more harm to traditional marriage than any decision before or since.
The lives of millions of innocent children have suffered needlessly because of this change to the law, which reflected increased selfishness in our society.
Just two years later, abortion became legal. This decision led to the murders of almost 60 million children in the United States alone.
Same-sex marriage is certainly not approved of in the scriptures. Nor are adultery and fornication, yet churches turn a blind eye to both, or punish them less severely.
The Apostle Paul treated them equally in I Corinthians 6:9.
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” (verses 9-11)
Clearly, Paul here condemns fornication, adultery and sodomy equally.
If churches had done the same in recent decades, they might not be in the mess they are in now with regard to same-sex relationships.
If churches are to have any credibility at all on moral issues, they need to condemn these sexual sins EQUALLY. That’s the only way they will be able to turn away same-sex couples who request a church wedding. Churches need a statement of belief that upholds a biblically sanctioned marriage and only a biblically sanctioned marriage between a man and a woman who have chosen chastity until marriage and are committed to fidelity afterwards. Divorced church members should be directed toward a civil marriage, not a church wedding.
If churches don’t do this, they are, in effect saying that one sin is worse than the other, just like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. In today’s western world that will open them up to charges of discrimination and intolerance.
One final thought before we leave this subject.
The book on the 1897 murder was titled: “To hell I must go.” The title came from the murderess herself. She kept saying that when the police came to arrest her.
When it comes to the morals of the last fifty years, it’s more a case of “to hell we must go.” Our society is falling apart as a result of our national sins. Lax laws have destroyed the family. The latest change to the law is just another nail in the coffin. Still to come, inevitably, are polygamy, incest, pedophilia, and bestiality. In England, they have already stopped prosecuting the latter.
It won’t end until we suffer the same fate as Sodom and Gomorrah. We will, but it may be some time yet and more changes are still to come.