I’ve been reading Mark, chapters 1 and 2 (all quotes are from The Message, by Eugene Peterson). First, the background. Mark is the shortest gospel, and was the first written of the four in the Bible. It moves quickly through the action of Jesus’ life — just in the first chapter, he’s baptized, tempted, calls his first disciples, and begins teaching and healing. He heals a LOT, right off the bat. There’s a focus in this first chapter on the casting out of evil spirits, or what we might call healing mental illness. Mark says that the evil spirits knew who Jesus was (“the Holy One of God”) and tried to expose him, but Jesus “wouldn’t let them say a word.”

That rather makes sense. Sometimes people with mental illnesses (or children, or those near death) see things differently from others.

In chapters two and three, we meet Jesus the Sabbath-breaker. This, I believe, is absolutely core to Jesus’ teachings. The first story is that on one Sabbath day, Jesus and his disciples walked through a field of ripe grain, and his hungry disciples began breaking off heads of grain to eat. When the Pharisees complained, Jesus told them off, reminding them that when King David and his men were hungry, they took the holy bread from the altar and ate it, even though it was forbidden. This is where he says “The Sabbath was made to serve us; we weren’t made to serve the Sabbath.”

Then, he goes on to heal a man with a crippled hand, saying “What kind of action suits the Sabbath best? Doing good or doing evil? Helping people or leaving them helpless?”

Jesus clearly teaches that we should not hold so closely to laws that we cease loving one another.

This past Sunday, I was sitting in middle of the front row, listening to the sermon and singing the hymns. On the periphery, I was aware that a young disabled woman who attends our church wanted to get my attention. She wasn’t causing a disturbance or anything, but I knew that was why she had wheeled up next to my pew. I was determined not to respond, figuring she needed to realize that this was not an appropriate time for us to chat.

Okay, so talking in church is generally frowned upon. Did I make the loving choice? Should I have just scooted over to see what she needed? It’s hard to say. This young lady tends to seek a lot of attention from people. I think (and remember that I have spent time working with developmentally disabled kids) that her disability is mostly physical, but she’s been babied, so she’s not as independent, both emotionally and otherwise, as she might be. So a loving choice might actually be to help her learn to interact with people appropriately, as I would with my children. Or, would it be better to break the unwritten rule?

Some choices seem clear-cut, and some are like this.