Following the law

The readings for this Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent reinforce the need for statutes, decrees, and commandments.

In Deuteronomy, Moses says, “I teach you the statutes and decrees as the Lord has commanded me, that you may observe them in the land you are entering…” In Matthew, Jesus says, “…I come not to abolish the law…but to fulfill them. Of this much I assure you: until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest part of a letter shall be done away with until it all comes true.”

And yet, Jesus amended the laws often with the phrase, “It says in the law….but I tell you…” when quoting one of the laws Moses gave nearly two thousand years earlier. For example, when a woman was about to be stoned for adultery, he asked the men ready to punish, “Who among you is without sin?” In other words, Jesus observed how the law had trapped people in the “letter of the law” but not the spirit of the law.

Moses also said something else interesting. The Hebrews were preparing to invade and live in the land they had been “promised.” Other people lived there and they, essentially, were taking over. Moses says to follow the law so that the people in the land they are entering will say “This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.”

In essence, the laws Moses gave were to help them live in community and kindly toward their neighbors. “Treat your neighbor as yourself,” for example.

And now, it’s been four thousand years since Moses received the laws on the Sinai, and two-thousand years since Jesus gave his own interpretation based on his times and culture.

Yesterday a case went before the Supreme Court in this country to argue whether or not companies could refuse to pay for contraceptives for women. The two companies said it violated their religious beliefs against abortion. i.e. the letter of the law. The justices who are the most radically religious seem to support that argument.

I find this whole argument over women’s contraceptives most illogical. If you want to prevent abortions, use effective birth control. But not everyone agrees with my perspective. I understand that.

What I don’t understand is why there’s no argument regarding insurance covering Viagra or any of the other male enhancement products. That leads to inequality under the law.

It’s the same principle regarding abortion. Only women are criminalized – but it takes a male to create a pregnancy. If we were in the spirit of the law in preventing abortions, wouldn’t it also be spirit-filled to criminalize the male who produced the pregnancy? And yes, males have to pay child support, but that’s sort of like making car payments. No real responsibility is required. The woman also has to financially support the child. And be responsible for it.

What if males faced a jail sentence for some amount of time for not protecting against an unplanned pregnancy? I’d venture to bet the number of unplanned pregnancies would go down. Wouldn’t that be in the “spirit of the law” rather than the “letter of the law?”

Jesus amended the laws of Moses to better suit his mission and his times. Isn’t it time we did the same, two-thousand years later? Isn’t it time to treat our neighbors as ourselves? To examine ourselves before we cast blame on others?

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2 thoughts on “Following the law

  1. susansayings says:

    It’s sad that contraception continues to be assumed to be the territory of religious institutions, and that they turn it into a political defiance tool.
    I left the church when I was 18 for this very reason, and I suspect that no women I know under 70, within or without the church, have honored the ban on contraception–and of course, their male partners rely upon women taking this responsibility. So this turns all these people into hypocrites when they support a church that forbids what they practice every day.
    Meanwhile, my lenten journey has taken a turn for the worse, so I’m thinking I’d better focus again on my commitment to give up complaining about other people. Could I have chosen a more challenging commitment right now? I am not exactly a fan of the struggles of spiritual growth right now.

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