I’m going through Mark.
Every so often, I get a little brave, and I decide to open up the Bible. Every time it feels like a bigger deal than it should be, but I guess that’s what you get when the thing has been used to metaphorically beat you more than a handful of times.
So yesterday bravery won, and I’m so glad it did.
Post deconstructing (if that’s even a thing; feels a bit more perpetual, like people who watch The Office), reading the Bible is interesting. You start paying attention to things you didn’t before. You’re willing to demand answers from it, and yet somehow more comfortable with more questions. You don’t do mind loops to make it make sense…
In a way, it’s like reading the thing for the first time…
And reading something for the first time hits differently…
For example, it always seems like Jesus is in a rush. The word “immediate” is extremely overused in Mark. Makes it sound like the Christ is just running from one social event to another (which, when I think about it, makes sense; I’m sure Messiahs feel like there’s always something to do; after all, this world isn’t going to change itself you know, hence Messiahs).
But besides Jesus rushing about and perpetually pissing off religious people, one thing I stumbled upon is how Jesus explains the Sabbath…
“One Sabbath [Jesus] was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. And the Pharisees were saying to him ‘Look, why are you doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?’ And he said to them, ‘Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?’ And he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”Mark 2:23-28 ESV, emphasis added
After coming out, the amount of times I heard, “Your lifestyle (I hate that word) is wrong (a.k.a. not lawful),” was abhorrent. Christians love telling other people what they believe is right, what’s lawful. It’s like their favorite hobby.
For a religion that claims limitless grace and unconditional love, it’s pretty obsessed with limits and conditions. The same was true for Pharisees (which is one reason that I believe modern-day Christianity is just re-invented Pharisitical BS because humans are too scared to give people actual freedom, but that’s for another tirade).
But here was Jesus, doing the unlawful, because the law was never meant to lord over man but serve him.
God didn’t invent the Sabbath because he’s an asshole and just invented another rule to make us bend and jump to see if we can gain his favor (at least I don’t believe that); He invented the Sabbath because it was a good idea; it was good for us. And we thought so too. In fact, we liked it so much, we decided to rest two days instead of one (“from glory to glory” hallelujah).
Laws, regardless of nature, are designed to serve the people, not the other way around.
Trevor Noah does a beautiful and haunting job of explaining this…
“Society is a contract; it’s a contract that we sign as human beings amongst each other … And, as with most contracts, the contract is only as strong as the people who are abiding by it. But if you think of being a black person in America who is living in Minneapolis and Minnesota or any place you’re not having a good time, ask yourself this question when you watch those people: What vested interest do they have in maintaining the contract?”Trevor Noah, The Daily Show, 29 May 2020
When the law lords over the powerless and empowers injustice, the law is no longer right because it is no longer protecting — the intended purpose of the law. To be “right” is to be functioning the proper way, the correct way. When a broken leg is “set right,” it is put back to the way it was supposed to function. When a website is coded right, it works properly.
But we think that just because a law is written in a holy book and came from God that the purpose of the law changes.
The purpose does not change. The law, even moral laws in holy books, should always serve the people who obey them.
Because God doesn’t need you to be “good.” God doesn’t gain anything from you behaving in a “right” way. He has everything. He doesn’t need anything from you, including “right” behavior.
But you do. Society does. Humanity does.
Which is why Paul says, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Galatians 5:14, ESV).
The whole purpose, the whole point, can be summed up in truly loving your neighbor, loving your enemy. It fulfills the purpose, making life, society right and whole.
The law serves us; not the other way around.
And when it doesn’t, it ought to change; in fact, it needs to be changed.
Is it right that people should go hungry to uphold a law? No. The law should absolutely be broken because it’s hurting people.
Is it right for hurting people to go without healing to uphold a law? No. The law should be broken because it’s not serving us, the lords of the law.
In this text, Jesus did not say, “The law was made for God;” he said it was made for man. And then he says, “The Son of Man [not the Son of God or the Messiah or the Christ but the Son of Man] is lord even of the Sabbath.”
We are the lords — the Sons (word here means “seed,” but male translators like to strip women of power, but I digress…) of Men — of the law, just like Jesus.
It serves us. And if it doesn’t, if being “lawful” is hurting people, if upholding the law is causing us to no longer love our neighbor, it absolutely should be bent, it absolutely should be broken, just like we see Jesus and his disciples doing here in the text.
That’s why Jesus heals on the Sabbath. That’s why Peter gets a vision to eat unclean meat. That’s why Paul says circumcision is cruel and wrong. That’s why the Council of Jerusalem does away with the law for all Gentiles. Because the ultimate law, the law that should be dictating our lives, is “Love God, love people.”
So, to today…
If your “lawfulness,” if your “godliness,” is causing another human harm, it should be done away with because even Jesus broke and bent laws to serve the greater law: the law of love.
In other words, if your “obedience to God” is hurting people, it is not holy, it is not right; rather, it is a soggy tampon (Isaiah 64:6).
With that in mind…
Is your holiness causing harm to your LGBTQ+ neighbor? (Queer youth born to religious parents are significantly more at risk of suicide than their non-religious counterparts according to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.)
Is your righteousness barring women from leadership? (People who believe the Bible is without errors are more likely to not let women lead according to research conducted at UCCS.)
Is your obedience to God stripping impoverished women of resources? (Countries with access to legal abortions end up having less abortions than countries that restrict abortions, and countries that have access to legal abortions provide more care to women in need according to a study by Guttmacher Institute.)
The law, whether found in society, the Old Testament, or the New Testament, was made for people, for serving people. If it’s not, if a law hurts people, starves people, robs people, disenfranchised people, it should be bent, broken, abandoned.