Several years ago the Muslim Scholars Association in Iraq learned that children from their country were coming to Israel for life-saving heart surgeries.
Outraged, the religious leaders went to the Iraqi parliament and demanded an end to this travesty. In the following flurry of publicity, some of our partners were indeed frightened away from helping children. The implicit lesson was that it is better for their children to die than to receive medical care from Jews.
I still remember one Iraqi television reporter who ended his report by saying:
“Isn’t it ironic that our enemies do more for our children than our friends.”
All this came to mind during our staff meeting this morning as we read the story of religious leaders challenging Jesus in the presence of a man with a deformed hand. “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” they asked, intending to accuse Jesus and not caring one bit about the man’s dilemma.
“What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out?” Jesus replied. “Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep?”
How human it is to elevate some religious principle above the highest law: love God, and love our neighbor.
Muslims do it. Jews do it. And yes, instead of patting ourselves on the back let’s raise that hand and admit that we Christians do it too. The other side of a theological argument is one of the loneliest places to be.
“If someone says ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar,” wise, old John wrote near the end of his life. “For he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?”