Jesus said to the legal experts and Pharisees, “Here’s a question for you: Is it legal on the sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” — Luke 6:9
The religious leaders in Jesus’ day loved to debate. They’d sift through all the religious laws in Scripture and tradition, examine each through a microscope, and make rulings on what was right/wrong, holy/sinful. In today’s passage, they’ve grumbled that Jesus should not have healed a man with a damaged hand on the sabbath; let him suffer another day before helping him.
And here they were representing the God they said was abounding in steadfast love. Really?
When we become so legalistic that we ignore human pain in order to prove a point, we expose ourselves. Our religiousness becomes an opportunity to make ourselves look good by pointing out how bad and misguided those who disagree with them are. (Funny how this works in the world of politics, too.)
Sadly, the history of the church has shown that even though Jesus put the Pharisees in their place during his time, throughout the centuries that followed they sneaked back in, this time wearing Christian garb. Just ask the ones they tortured and killed during the Inquisition because they didn’t believe correctly. Or the slaves who were owned by Christian masters. Or the women who were refused ordination. Or the gays who are denied marriage as well as ordination.
As only Jesus could, he got right to the matter. Is it legal to do good or evil? One of the worst evils is religious people thinking they’re righteous as they persecute people in God’s name. When we judge people, we join the ranks of those who need to be asked Jesus’ question. Our judgments are always faulty because we see things only from our own biased perspectives. It’s better to let the Master broaden our vision by broadening our hearts.
We know the proper response to Jesus. It is better to save life by loving and not destroy it by judging.