Saturday, May 1, 2010

Civics 101

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Romans 13:1-4

The kids and I took a trip down to the local Courthouse for a lesson in Civics one day last month.

While making the trek from the parking lot to the building, my 11-year-old daughter commented, “I don’t want to learn about Civics!” I responded that all citizens in this city, county, and nation need to learn about Civics. It was a non-negotiable outing for the morning.

Why were we on this mission? Because I needed to pay my fines for two—not just one, but two—traffic tickets I had received. (If anyone has read my post on gratitude, part of learning to be thankful was even for two tickets in two days!)

Upon entering the Courthouse, we were greeted by the security check, standard for this day and age. After removing every belt, watch, hair clip, pair of glasses, tote, backpack, and purse, we thought we’d be in the clear, right? Nope!

Civics Lesson #1: Itty bitty souvenir pocket knives from Mount Rushmore are considered weapons, and as such are not allowed in the building. The boys made the trek back to the car to put the offensive item away.

Civics Lesson #2: The fines for traffic violations hurt . . . a lot! Lesson learned . . . . I’m paying much closer attention to my driving, diligently obeying all “No turn” signs and completely stopping at all those red octagonal signs, among other traffic laws.

Having finished paying off the fines and getting the necessary information about the upcoming traffic school, I decided that our Civics lesson was still incomplete. The kids needed to understand a bit more about the justice system and how it works dealing with more serious offenders.

Civics Lesson #3: All court proceedings, unless otherwise indicated, are open for public viewing at any time, including home school parents and their Civics class students.

Civics Lesson #4: Excuses for why one cannot perform court-assigned community service penalties do not work with the judge! Prepare to be arrested on the spot if you try.

Civics Lesson #5: People observing court proceedings should not talk, whisper, or read books. They should be quiet and watch respectfully.

Civics Lesson #6: A lot of the courtroom business is taken up with paperwork and legalities (setting dates for hearings, postponing hearings, making sure people understand their rights, etc.).

Civics Lesson #7: The home is the learning ground for Civics.

Here’s how I later explained it to the children. Ultimately, God wants people to learn to live in a right relationship with Him and within His boundaries for their own benefit. To accomplish this goal, He has placed the parents in a position of authority to establish laws (like the legislature) for the common good of the citizenry (the family), to determine when someone is in violation of the law (like the police), and to initiate learning situations to teach the citizens to better obey the law (like the judge).

The parents have the responsibility to train the children how to live abundant lives enjoying the protective boundaries, a task that is often in contradiction to all of the family’s sinful natures. How well the parents do at their jobs and how well the children learn the lessons will greatly affect the children’s futures as well as the abundant life—or lack thereof—in the home.

We compared consequences in the legal system to those found in the home. There is community service (added chores, assuming another’s task[s] for the day), incarceration (being sent to one’s room, being grounded, having certain privileges removed), and fines (some monetary, others being goods or time submitted to the authorities).

Until a child is 18, he is accountable to the parents as the authority. However, once a child is a legal adult, he is answerable to the civic authorities. During our short visit, we witnessed adults who had either not had parents teach them very well, or they had not seemed to learn their lessons. Now, it was the Judge’s duty to administer consequences to try to help them learn. The question is. . . will they? Part of our responsibility, as citizens of both this city, county, and nation as well as of the Kingdom of God, is to appropriately respond to the correction we receive, learn from it, and, in the words of the Master, “go and sin no more” (John 8:11b).

"My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son."

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:5b-11

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