When You Need to Choose Love
Do you struggle between doing what you think might be “right” and showing love? Jesus came down squarely on one side of this quandary.
Mark 3:1-6 (ESV)
A Man with a Withered Hand
Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. 2 And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” 4 And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.
Digging into God’s Word
I am a natural-born rule follower. Several years ago on a business trip, my colleague and I were put up in a college dormitory. It was summertime, and we occupied two rooms on an otherwise empty dorm floor of a Jesuit campus. One night after an exhausting day of work, the fire alarm went off, waking me from a sound sleep. I waited for a few seconds to see if it would be turned off–a sure sign that it was a false alarm. Alas, the alarm kept sounding. I got up, found my glasses, put on some shoes and a cover-up and stepped into the hallway. There was no sign of my colleague, so I quickly walked to the stairway and started making my way down several flights of stairs. By the time I found the exit door, I had lost track of how many flights I had traveled.
A laser-printed paper sign posted on the exit door stopped me in my tracks. “NO EXIT. Under absolutely no circumstances should you go out this door.”
Even if there’s a fire? I wondered.
The fire alarm was still blaring. Was this the real deal? But the rules! The sign said exiting was prohibited.
I kid you not: I turned around and traipsed back up a flight of stairs. I didn’t know whether to panic and race back down and out that door or to relax at the probable false alarm. I stopped at a landing and listened at the doorway. I could hear voices–welcome human contact amidst a confusing situation. I opened the door to find myself looking at a hallway of sleepy Jesuit priests, every single one of them in boxers and white undershirts. It turns out that while I was smiling sheepishly at the hallway of priests, my male colleague was swearing for lack of sleep in a lobby full of nuns. I’m sure we made quite the impression!
I still chuckle that I couldn’t force myself to go out that exit door. Sometimes we lose sight of the important thing and follow misguided rules.
In our passage today, we see the mockery the Pharisees had made of keeping the Sabbath. Rather than focusing on the principle of rest so as to grow closer to God on His holy day, they had piled rule upon rule, restricting the people’s freedom to lift a finger, even for good, on the Sabbath.
Notice the depth of Jesus’ anger at the Pharisees’ desire to follow man-made rules in place of God’s overriding command to love.
- In several translations, Jesus is described as “grieved at their hardness of heart” (ESV and NASB).
- Another puts it as “deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts” (NIV).
- The Holman translates it as “sorrow at the hardness of their hearts” (HCSB).
This wasn’t a passing moment of frustration. This was deep anger and penetrating grief.
This one is worth spending time on! Reflect on these questions. If you have time, journal your answers.
- Consider the rules you find important at church, at work, or in your family. For example, you might hold fast to the rule that everyone should go to church every Sunday (I struggle with this one), people should get to work early, or your kids should pick up every toy off the floor of their room every day. What rules have you created in your mind?
- Any one of those rules might not be wrong to try to attain, but do we hold to those rules to the detriment of caring for people? What if the family who struggles to get to church is dealing with a crisis, and the very act of getting everyone ready on a Sunday morning takes a level of energy beyond what they can muster? What if your colleague has no other choice but to take her children to three separate schools every morning and that’s what makes her consistently late for work? Or what if, heaven forbid, she just runs late? What if your child has had a rough day and needs a hug instead of chastisement? Ask God to reveal to you what rule you are holding onto over loving the person.
- Thank God, and I mean very literally tell Him thank you, for having provided Jesus’ sacrifice as atonement for our sins so that we are covered for our own missteps:
“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” ~Isaiah 1:18
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us. ~Psalm 103:10-12
This is the last devotion in the series Getting to Know Jesus. To access the entire series click here. In our next series, we will turn to Isaiah 44 and 45. Get ready to be amazed at how God’s Word to the Israelites applies to our lives today as well. Be sure to get all of the devotions! Don’t rely on Facebook posts, especially in the summer months. Sign up on the website or at THIS LINK to have them delivered to your email inbox on Mondays and Thursdays.Print
Hi Chris, Carmen just shared your blog with me – I love it! I’m almost laughing outloud because I probably wouldn’t have went through that door either. I probably would have perished on site rather than open that door. I sometimes think that this happens to people who are black and white thinkers with no room for gray areas. I will say that the older I’m getting, the more gray areas there are, and I’m happy about that. May God bless your day!
Hi Joyce, It’s so great to have you here, reading with us! I’m glad to know I am not the only one who might not have gone out that door. I like how you describe it. Perhaps this is what they mean by older and wiser. 🙂