What is Legally Right is Not Necessarily Morally Right

The Utah State Legislature recently passed a bill making sex outside of marriage legal.

Lawmakers are trying to clean up the criminal code in Utah by removing laws that are on the books, but unenforced and considered “outdated.” Until now fornication was a misdemeanor. Utah’s Senate passed the bill and the House passed it 41-32. Now it goes to the governor for his signature or veto.

This follows the recent repeal of laws still on the books that made both adultery and sodomy a crime.

Among the conservative members who were not happy with the bill, Rep Kevin Stratton commented, “What is legally right is often far below what is morally right. And I recognize our laws are not strong enough to rule immoral people.”

Stratton’s statement reminds us that not everything that’s legally right is morally right.

What man’s law allows and what God’s law condemns are often in conflict. Regarding these recently repealed laws, here’s what the Bible says.

“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.” –1 Cor 6:9-11

Of course, issues of morals and ethics have been debated for centuries. Dictionary.com defines morality as “Conformity to the rules of right conduct.”
However, culture, changing societal mores and shifting political winds shape what people believe and practice regarding morality.

True Bible believers accept the Bible and the New Testament as their standard of right and wrong. Good and bad. Moral and immoral. Yet, we have seen changes in recent years even among some so-called Christians regarding marriage and divorce, teenage sexual behavior and same-sex marriage.

The Bible hasn’t changed. But laws change. Culture changes. And, too often Christians suddenly discover “new truth” and change their views and even practices as well.

Legal and moral, of course, isn’t just confined to sexual practices. There may be certain business dealings that technically are within the bounds of law but violate both the Golden rule and the second great commandment (Matt 7:12; 22:39).

In fact, the same chapter that condemns sexual immorality also forbids taking a fellow Christian to court. (1Cor 6:1-8) The inspired writer urges the Corinthian brethren to work out their differences among themselves. And if a solution cannot be reached then the aggrieved Christian should be willing to suffer wrong, rather than sue his brother in a court of law. So, while it may legally be right to sue a fellow Believer, it is a violation of the spiritual relationship we sustain within the Family of God.

This reminds me of a conversation author John Maxwell had with Laurence J. Kirshbaum, chairman and CEO of the AOL Time Warner Book company. As they chatted Kirshbaurm told John he would be the perfect person to write a book on business ethics.

To his surprise, John replied, “There’s no such thing.”

“There’s no such thing as business ethics, there’s only ethics,” John explained. “People try to use one set of ethics for their professional life, another for their spiritual life, and still another in their home with their family. That gets them into trouble. Ethics is ethics. If you desire to be ethical, you live it by one standard across the board.”

Regardless of what the law allows or society accepts, our morals and ethics are derived and directed by Divine decree.

It’s not enough to be a law-abiding citizen. We are called to a higher standard. To “renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age”(Titus 2:12).

Or in the words of the now-defunct web-comic, A Softer World, “It was a sweet day when I realized that legal and illegal had nothing to do with right and wrong.”

–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman


Filed under Morality

4 responses to “What is Legally Right is Not Necessarily Morally Right

  1. Larry Hafley

    Loved that last paragraph!


  2. Jack Thomas

    Florida went through a very grievous period ethically when it was legal to buy a person’s home for what they owed in back taxes. I do not know of Christians who acted upon that premise, but I know of one Christian’s husband who did and she justified it. Many elderly people lost their homes. It stopped when (I believe it was the tax collector in Tallahassee) who refused to accept payment for one of the houses. J.Thomas


  3. Dennis Cady

    I hope if I would have lived in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s I would have been involved in smuggling Jewish children out of Germany….even though it was illegal. I hope if I would have been alive in America in the days of slavery I would have been involved in the underground railroad. Now we have people in Central American countries trying to flee a burning house of poverty and violence. Good people who live under bad governments. My nations official policy is to station armed soldiers in their driveway, telling them they cannot flee; they must stay in the burning house. I am struggling with what I should do. God’s will trumps man’s laws. Am I the only Christian struggling with this? Does anyone have a way to help these people get to where their teenage sons have an option other than join a gang or be murdered?


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