Leave Them in the Pit
If your child were in need and the only way that you could get them help would require you breaking the law, do not tell me you would not do it. Don’t tell Jesus either. He would not commend you for your piety.
The law was clear in regards to the Sabbath. No work was to be done. But, it is ridiculous to think that if your child fell into a pit on the Sabbath, you would wait until Sunday to pull him out.1 (Although, a day in a pit might be good for them:) Religious adherence was not the point of the Sabbath. The point was creating a healthy rhythm of life for God’s people. It was a gift of rest. As Jesus put it, “Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.”2
David and his men ate bread from the temple that, by law, only the priests could eat. But, the circumstances surrounding that event, the context, prioritized their need before the law.3 “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment (discernment) of God rather than burnt offerings.”4 Kindness and compassion are more absolute than the religious law.5
Human hunger matters more than the holiness of a piece of bread. Restoration of someone’s health is not to be impeded by a religious law. It seems obvious, especially when we read about the astounding stubbornness of the Pharisees. Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things, there is no law.6
“Sorry crippled man. Ain’t no healing available today.” ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ “It’s the Sabbath.”
This does not mean that the Bible and its teaching are to be treated frivolously or are simplistically relative. I am not saying, nor was Jesus implying that the only thing God wants from us is kindness. What this means is that you can site a seemingly clear biblical teaching and still miss the point. A “The Bible says it, that finishes it” approach is theologically shallow and lazy. Romans 13 does not permit us to let our government go unchecked. It does not free us from intellectual Christan engagement of policies. At the same time, we cannot simply remind everyone to love their enemies as if that in itself solves the most complicated questions regarding human violence, evil and the like.
The way of Jesus demands more from us than our talking points. My family’s safety and yours are important to me, but protecting my family does not let me off the hook of my moral responsibility to the hurting and needy. If you lived in Aleppo, you would do whatever you could to get your family out of there. You would not care about any immigration law or some border. Your kid’s safety and quality of life trump everything else. (see what I did there?)
My goal is not to change your mind about any certain policy, but simply to season the speech that is the overflow of your heart. Do not talk about “keeping the terrorists out” without expressing compassion for those truly in need of refuge. Leaving someone in the pit because it is the Sabbath misses the point. You may not be sure how to get them out (how to solve the problem) but, acknowledging the need, the moral imperative to do so, is a good starting point.
Withholding mercy cannot be justified by appealing to your duty to uphold some religious or civic law. To do so is to forget the mercy and grace that have been afforded you.
1 Luke 14:5
2 Mark 2:27
3 Mark 2:25-26
4 Hosea 6:6
5 We Make the Road by Walking Brian McLaren pg108
6 Galatians 5:22-23