“… have you not read in the law that on the sabbath the priests in the temple break the sabbath and yet are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.” He left that place and entered their synagogue; a man was there with a withered hand, and they asked him, “Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath?” so that they might accuse him. He said to them, “Suppose one of you has only one sheep and it falls into a pit on the sabbath; will you not lay hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a human being than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the sabbath.” Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and it was restored, as sound as the other (Matthew 12:5-13).

Recently HLN ran a story about a widow who was fined $120 by her Homeowners’ Association for supposedly using her garage as a living space. She kept her garage door up during the day and invited neighbors to drop by to chat or play cards. The lady thus enjoyed companionship while modeling neighborliness and providing a community in these days when so many are isolated from and suspicious of others. She said she did not intend to pay the fine.

I think the gospel is on her side, not that such a thing will matter to the rule- and aesthetics-obsessed board of her HOA. Regulations, ordinances, laws, and the like are necessary components of society. They keep chaos at bay and seek to ensure the safety of all. But mercy and community trump the rigid enforcement of rules in Jesus’ view. Human well-being is more important than who says so and what you can do when.

The question comes down to what we value most. Looks? Conformity? Tradition? The status quo? Or is it human community? Wholeness? Laughter? Diversity? Healing?

It’s always lawful to do good. Keep that garage door up, lady!

© 2011 Tom Cheatham

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