There ought to be a law…
Well— there is— or more accurately, there are… laws… lots of them and there are more coming! We Americans have a love affair going with the Law. There is actually a website where you can go to propose one, or more.
“Writing.com… where the writers go,” one posting at the site says, “How often have you said or heard it said, “There ought to be a law…” How many could we enact to make the world a better place.” There are now 100 displayed at the site and with a “click” and 225 characters any of us can go to it and get it in black and white— or even living color.
Regarding “There Oughta Be a Law” Google also reveals, “each fall, Senator Joe Simitian, 11th District California, kicks off his annual “There Oughta Be A Law” contest and invites constituents (and other Californians) to submit ideas for a new law or to take an existing law off the books. At least one contest winner is selected, and his or her idea is introduced the following spring as a legislative proposal. Since 2001, 18 “Oughta” entries have been signed into law. (no report of any removed!) Contest winners (reap benefits and prizes, but) the real prize is knowing that your idea has the potential of becoming law for 38 million Californians.
Though not all of it good and life-giving, our local, state and national love affair with the Law has borne so incredibly much fruit! We might be tempted to say, “Wouldn’t the world be a better place if — WE — made the laws… and people —and I mean everybody — had to obey them?” Just imagine, a world ruled by the rule of Law.!.
If by now the hairs on our necks are not standing and the backs of our eyelids are not flashing neon—
CAUTION CAUTION CAUTION— it is critical for us to note… good as the Law can be — there are DANGERS to the LAW as well!
Jesus in today’s Gospel says, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?” (Luke 6:9) As much as He was talking to the Pharisees then cautioning them, He is talking to me… to us— today! Along with Jesus, History wants to caution us by reminding us of the dangers of the Law. History reminds us of the deadly discriminatory laws that not only failed to save a life but for some gave license to destroy it and others to fall victim of it.
In Matthew 22 we hear of the Law of Love from Jesus,
34When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest? 37He said to him, ” ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38This is the greatest and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Jesus had full command of the laws, each and every one. He also had His heart and people first priorities in Godly compassionate placement.
Laws governing slaves, for instance, ignoring the Law of Love Jesus practiced and defended, laws garnering support by the quoting of God’s Holy Scriptures justified destroying life. Jim Crowe laws ignoring the Law of Love Jesus practiced and defended, laws still enforced as late as 1965 — justified destroying life.
Laws governing the rights of Native American peoples lives ignoring the Law of Love Jesus practiced and defended, these laws have been justifying destroying life throughout our nation’s history.
Our CAUTIONARY question for today, in the turbulent and troublesome times we are living and dying in, compel and even command us to inquire, “What laws are we still living and dying under today?” What laws are we still— even now creating anew today — that are threatening to destroy our life rather than saving it?
In our story, Jesus was standing up and even if need be against the Law in order to stand up for Love and Life and the heart of God for God’s children!
The Pharisees in our Gospel stories for today were all about the Law. They too were intimately engrossed in a love affair with the Law. They were the self-appointed “keepers” of the Law. In the name of honoring God and ensuring the preservation of community and national identity, seemingly at all costs, the Pharisees exercised their influence and power. They were rigorous in their keeping and enforcing — if not even imposing — the Law on everyone. The Hebrew Bible, sometimes called The Torah, the Law and the Prophets, along with some Wisdom Literature, our Christian Old Testament, is said to have listed “on the books in black and white,” — 613 of them— all the laws from God for just about everything. And the Pharisees supposedly kept their eyes on each and every one of them— for everyone.
What was and is a gift from God, the Law is a good thing! But, in Jesus engagement with the Pharisees over the Sabbath laws, He is evidently concerned that for their rigid protection of the Law and through it the protecting of their nation they had sacrificed their very own hearts — and God’s heart for God’s children as well, especial those in need!
Jesus argues with the Pharisees and acts with compassion for the hungry and the afflicted because while He knows and even loves the laws of God, He also knows the heart of God. Jesus’ words and actions scream for the Pharisees and everyone — certainly not to dishonor God’s law —but to simply and certainly “have a heart,” — first for the neighbor and for meeting their needs. For Jesus, the law of love declares and demands that there is no “wrong day” to feed the hungry or save the disabled and afflicted from disability and social shame, no “wrong time” for refusing to allow the law to destroy life rather than save it.
When Jesus heals that man with the withered hand on the Sabbath He doesn’t just break the Sabbath Law, He “keeps the Law of Love” and saves that child of God from one more day of disability, one more day of being judged and condemned as “unclean,” one more day of shame and shunning as an “untouchable outcast banned from community!” When Jesus heals that man He also seeks to gift his family and community of that man with a wonderful, new and whole member … a fully “able” man eager to share and contribute all his gifts and talents to the family, the community, and the nation. And when Jesus heals that man on the Sabbath He even seeks to save the Pharisees — from the Law and from themselves, from choosing to exercise stone-cold hearts that destroy life with the Law.
Come to think of it… when Jesus healed the man on that Sabbath He was well likely seeking to save me, to save us as well— to save US from OURSELVES, from our own choosing of stone-cold hearts that destroy lives instead of saving them— by holding others to standards and rules and laws and morals we ourselves sometimes don’t or can’t keep to the letter.
Do our seats not wiggle from disease — when we think about our disdain over “Restroom Laws for “those people?” Do our collars not tighten and heat up when we contemplate “Civil Rights Laws for “those people?” Does our conscience not convict and afflict us when we ponder “Divorce Laws” with moralistic judgments of those we label as “those divorcees?”
I suppose like the Pharisees and the slave owners we could argue there are judgments and laws, prescriptions and restrictions and prescriptions right there in the Bible— in “plain black and white.” You know… there ought and HAVE to be laws… and those laws ought and HAVE to be kept… and the consequences of breaking them ought and HAVE to be enforced by the ENFORCERS and endured by the OFFENDERS!
But, wouldn’t that just make us stone-cold hearted Pharisees?
Biblical times Sabbath laws— what one can and can’t do and what one ought and ought not to do on the Sabbath may not seem like a make or break crucial concern for moderns like us but think about it…
Might Jesus be trying to heal and save me— to save us with pondering the implications of those laws today? Come to think of it, how ironic…wouldn’t this be God’s Sabbath… OUR Sabbath… MY Sabbath today? What MAY we do on this Sabbath.?. Perhaps we MAY respond to Jesus call to choose to stand with Him and against some laws that discriminate and destroy life. Perhaps we May be called to stand with God’s children in need of saving by risking to courageously advocate for the afflicted and the vulnerable and the powerless.
Let’s hope and pray, maybe spend the whole day and like Jesus the whole night praying, that Jesus keeps another Sabbath by keeping the Law of Love and healing us for the weeks and years ahead by doing another healing on THIS Sabbath! Why… then WE could ACT like Jesus… and KEEP the Law of Love. After all, there’s a law that ought to be (KEPT)! Amen!