We start with a discussion of what is permissible on the sabbath and what isn’t. Which, if I’m in a good mood, I’m happy to take as a caution against uncritically using rigid laws to prevent you from doing good; e.g. Matthew 12:11, “And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?” Of course, it’s not quite that simple: part of his justification is that priests are allowed to do more on the sabbath than other people and, as he says in Matthew 12:8, “For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.” So there is a bit of special pleading here, but it’s pretty sensible special pleading, and in general I like how the chapter starts.
I’m not so thrilled with how the chapter continues and ends: a repeat of the “you’re with me or against” me philosophy that I ranted about yesterday, complete with a recasting of family ties. But it’s gentler this time, and actually there’s a lot of good in the recasting of family ties that the chapter ends with: he’s not rejecting existing family ties, he’s instead broadening the notion of family, and I wholeheartedly support that.
And, in the middle, we have a rather interesting line, from Matthew 12:25: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand”. Which I quite like: people working together are ever so much more powerful than people working against each other, or even than people who are randomly working in related but not particularly well-aligned directions. Now, that statement alone doesn’t mean that you should take draconian measures to force people in line; but that doesn’t limit the statement’s utility as a diagnostic, or even say that parting ways isn’t sometimes a quite reasonable response to a serious difference in views and desires.
This post has not been revised since publication.