Remembering What’s Most Important — Mt 23:3 — Sunday Nov 2, 2014

The 1999 Academy Award winning movie Cider House Rules directed by Lasse Hallström starred Charlize Theron and Michael Caine.  The book (by John Irving) and the movie dealt with ways in which rules imposed by the authorities sometimes cannot be, or are not necessarily accepted or implemented.  There were extremely challenging examples in the movie (and John Irving’s book by the same name), including these:

  • Migrant apple picking laborer Rose (same surname, Rose) was the victim of incest.  In seeking release from a resulting pregnancy, she thought to do so in a way that threatened her life and human decency even further.  The physician Dr. Larch (Michael Caine) said that he offered his expertise without moralizing; but (devoting his life to the care of the indigent) sought not to do anything that would leave a residue of personal regret.
  • There is the challenge of fidelity—Candy Kendall (Charlize Theron) found it impossible to manage to wait her absent wartime pilot boyfriend Wally Worthington
  • Triage in the case of medical carers—Addicted Dr. Larch, directing the orphanage there, loved and trained the (unqualified) abandoned orphan Homer Wells to help with deliveries
  • Homicide—when Rose stabbed her father Arthur Rose because he tried to apprehend her when she ran away from him
  • Suicide—when Rose’s father Arthur deliberately deepened the stab wound he received from Rose, hoping to die from the knife wounds, or as he said, “bend the rules in order to restore order”

So in this stark story, degradation or erosion of normal behavior may flow from or be the result of an unjust system (rules) where the pickers travel with little money and no reasonable female-male arrangements.  Irving’s book and Lasse’s movie thus seems to say that at times suffering people think that the rules may have to be “bent” to produce, maintain, or restore love and life.

In Mt 23:3 – the minutiae of the Law were observed, but God’s love, of which the Law was an expression, was easily forgotten.

Matthew’s view is that of personal allegiance to the interpreter of the Law, the Messiah–Mt 23:10 “your one Leader is the Messiah”.  This single focus of allegiance is underscored in Mt 23:8: “You have but one teacher”, and “one father” (Mt 23:9).

From there, the conduct of the believer flows from this focused allegiance, or the conduct that is consistent with this focused allegiance is expressed in two important ways:  Firstly, in Mt 23:8 “and you are all brothers”.  Secondly, in Mt 23:11 “The greatest among you must be your servant.”  That is a massive challenge to all social and political systems! A massive challenge to all organisations, including the church, families, schools, hospitals, corporations, and governments.

Love of the Law in other people is not fostered by the rigorism of the teacher, or by those teachers that make the Law an end in itself.  Rather, the love of God’s law is fostered by the believer’s justice, mercy, and faith or rather fidelity (Mt 23:23).

In going to the polls to vote, we should use these things as a measure of the candidates and policies that are presented: the values or standards of justice, mercy, and fidelity.  What candidate or policy will erode relationships and the matters of justice, mercy, and fidelity?  What candidate or policy will build up these relational things in our society?

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