Foolish Love Breaks the Rules
(Week 2)

Scripture: Mark 7:24-29, Luke 13:10-17

    What lengths would you go to in order to save someone you love?
    Our world is full of stories of people who broke the rules to do something that would help someone they loved. Just sitting here, a few movies instantly come to mind: Romeo and Juliet; Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner; Philadelphia; Patch Adams; Mulan.

    And some real-life stories come to mind, like Loving v. Virginia, which fought to take down interracial marriage laws. Or the family of Ryan White, who fought for the rights and care for people diagnosed with AIDS. Or John and Revé Walsh, who have worked tirelessly to change laws and founded the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children after their son Adam disappeared.

    And then there are the biblical stories. Our Bible is filled with stories of rule-breakers. People break the rules for both good and bad reasons. Perhaps the best rule-breaker of them all was Jesus. He regularly ignored the rules – rules that in some cases were interpretations of what God meant, but also rules that came straight out of Torah code – in order to set people free of the things that were keeping them bound up.

    We have two such stories for this week, though in one of them Jesus has to be reminded to break the rules. A woman whose daughter is sick comes to Jesus and asks for healing. Jesus does not immediately grant that healing to her. Why not? Because he is tired? That may be contributing to Jesus’ response, but it is not the reason he gives the woman for denying her. He tells her that he cannot take food meant for the children and throw it to the dogs. Why is Jesus calling this woman and her child dogs? They are Gentiles. At this moment, Jesus sees his mission as one to the Jewish people only. That is the rule he is following.

    This woman has a sick child. She is not going to let something like ethnic identity get in the way. So she challenges Jesus, calling him to at the very least share the crumbs that fall from the table. This woman not only sees beyond ethnic lines, she also has confidence in the abundance of God’s power – the slightest bit will do the work she needs done.

    This rule-breaking woman reminds Jesus of his true mission: to set everyone free, to help everyone know the fullness of life in God’s reign. She also reminds Jesus of the abundance of God, something we will explore more in the weeks to come. Her audacity on behalf of her child calls Jesus to break the arbitrary boundaries between people to help the most vulnerable.

    This woman’s story parallels the story Liz Emis shares with us in this week’s video. Liz’s tenacity for her son reminds us how foolish love does not see limits when it comes to our children. It should also remind us we should not see limits when it comes to the world’s children.  We are called to listen to those children, and to listen to those parents who know something is not quite right. No matter what boundary – geographic or otherwise – lies between us, if we are called to love like Christ, we are called to love beyond limits and fight for the lives and the voices of those children.

    The second story we have for this week shows us Jesus the rule-breaker at work himself. We could have chosen any number of Jesus’ stories for this week, from flipping out and flipping tables to healing the man at Bethsaida to eating grain on the Sabbath. Jesus was constantly drawing the ire of those around him who were committed to the rules above all else – even above preserving the people the rules were ultimately made to protect.

    I chose, however, a lesser-known story of the bent over woman. This passage does appear in the Revised Common Lectionary (a collection of passages that many pastors in many denominations use to decide what to preach), but the same week it is offered, the call of Jeremiah is also offered, which may be a more appealing passage to many than this one. Plus, this story is in a particularly difficult chapter of Luke. The verses that precede it contain mysteries of history (the fallen tower of Siloam) and an odd fig tree parable, and the verses that follow contain short parables about the reign of God before launching into prophetic damnation for Jerusalem. In other words, this is a chapter many avoid in favor of other stories that illustrate similar points more clearly.

    But this woman’s story, which only appears in Luke, is important because not only does this woman suffer from a painful condition, that very condition makes her full inclusion in community extremely difficult. Yes, there is the restriction that practically anyone who is sick or injured suffers at the time (a wrong assumption that any such condition is automatically proof of sin). Additionally, her bent over condition creates difficulty interacting with anyone to simply be a contributing presence in society.

    Toms Shoes used to sponsor a yearly “One Day Without Shoes” to encourage people to understand the impact not having shoes has on your mobility and inclusion in things. One year that I partook, I ended up having to go without shoes (due to a packed schedule) from 5:30 a.m. to 3 a.m. the next morning. There were several lessons that I learned, including that people in the wealthiest part of Dallas pay for very soft grass and probably never walk barefoot on it. But the thing that stood out the most was how little interaction I could have with others. I was looking constantly at my feet instead of seeing the people who later told me they waved at me, or even smiling at people who walked by. The lack of interaction combined with the pain in my feet really started to drag on my psyche.

    This woman has no choice but to primarily look down. If she was so bent over as to be described in those terms, looking up to see people’s eyes would have been difficult and painful. She is not just cut off because of assumptions people may be making about her because she is ill, she is cut off physically by the realities of her condition. Jesus restores her to health and community – and he draws attack for doing so.

    When they attack him, he calls them hypocrites and reminds them of her humanity. To deny her the chance to be healed, no matter what the day, is to treat her less than they would an animal. Jesus reminds us that the rules may have a purpose, but if that purpose becomes the point – rather than the purpose of freeing people from bondage and affliction – then the point is lost.

    So yes, love calls us to be rule breakers. We break the rules when people need to be included. And we break the rules when someone gets the chance to live the fullness of life. Rules, especially God’s rules, are meant to protect and preserve life and community. They are not meant to protect and preserve power. If we are to foolishly love, we need to remember that. And we need to be ready to stand tall for those who cannot, and to fight for all God’s children like a mother protecting her own.

  • Someone in history has probably broken rules that have now benefited you. Who is that person, and what rules did they break?
  • Have you ever stood up and broken the rules (or considered doing so) for the benefit of someone else? What was the outcome if you did?
  • Who is restricted from the fullness of community among us now? What would it take to include them? How could we all benefit by their inclusion?


Sunday, February 25
Scripture Reading: Mark 7:24-29; Luke 13:10-17
    The scriptures for this week are two stories of Jesus healing. The first is about a young girl and the second about a mature woman. In both passages Jesus broke rules of the traditional Jewish faith of his day. Imagine you were present at these healings as you read –
     “From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet.  Now the woman was a gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.  He said to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ But she answered him, ‘Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’  Then he said to her, ‘For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.’”   (Mark 7:24-29 NRSVUE)
     “Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath.  And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight.  When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, ‘Woman, you are set free from your ailment.’  When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.  But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the Sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, ‘There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured and not on the Sabbath day.’ But the Lord answered him and said, ‘You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it to water?  And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?’  When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame, and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things being done by him.”  (Luke 13:10-17 NRSVUE)
    Yes, Jesus broke several rules in these stories: 1) He had a conversation with a Gentile woman and healed her daughter, and 2) He saw a Jewish woman in the synagogue and called her to him and healed her on the Sabbath. The obvious question is “Why did he do it?” and the answer is “Because he saw their need and loved them.”
    Jesus was very clear about love. He taught that the commandments to love God, neighbor and self were the most important. He also taught that love of neighbor included enemies, those living on the margins of society, and those considered unworthy of love. Jesus showed love to individuals and but also to crowds of people that he felt were being harassed by governments or rulers.
    Jesus’ kind of love is much more than obeying a command – it is about doing as Jesus did – performing service and action that is done as service to Christ himself. Our acts of love, our acts of service, our attempts at seeking justice and exposing the injustices of the world are all to be done as a service to the Christ that is within each person we touch or serve.
    As disciples of Christ we are called to love, to seek justice for the poor and oppressed. We are called to break the rules of our society and stand up for those in need. Our love must lead us to challenge the systems that allow people to be hungry; that deprive people of health care; that lead to violence and hatred. Yes, Jesus’ kind of love may be considered “foolish” but as a disciple of the one who broke the rules of his day, I too have to share that kind of love in my community, nation and world.
- Joyce D. Sohl

Monday, February 26
Scripture Reading: Mark 3:1-6
Personal Reflection
     This is the first passage you are invited to read and reflect on yourself.  For these self-reflections, you will be given one prompting question. But feel free to reflect in whatever way is meaningful for you.
     Question: Have you ever done something that led to someone looking at you with anger, deeply grieved at your unyielding heart? What does it take to restore a relationship in that kind of situation?

Tuesday, February 27
Scripture Reading: Peter and Cornelius
“Bended Rules” a story by Charlotte “Charley” Grant, age 8
    These are some ways in my life that I have bended the rules to show love.
     This reminds me that I know we aren’t supposed to talk to strangers because it can be scary, but sometimes I ask my mommy if we can give money to people on the street. She says that is ok because I’m with an adult and helping someone else. And one time my nana and I were driving, and we saw a person have a bike wreck, so my nana broke the law by stopping in the middle of the street with her car to block traffic so no one would get hurt more. Sometimes when I play soccer, my coach and teammates will holler at me to keep going in the game, but if I bump into someone, I like to make sure they are ok and not hurt. It makes me distracted, but I like to be kind. And I got tagged once in tag when someone fell in the muddy water instead of running away. It’s not what other people want me to do, but I like to because I would want someone to help me. Loving people to me is important because I want people to love me and people need love.
- Charlotte Grant

Wednesday, February 28
Scripture Reading: Luke 17:11-19
    Issues that existed 2000 years ago are surprisingly relevant in today’s world, perhaps because they are rooted in our humanness and ongoing need for salvation. After reading Luke 17:11-19, I reflected on today’s lepers —people who experience isolation or a sense of disconnectedness for various reasons. That led me to ask myself, ‘What can I do when I may not even know someone is suffering from isolation?’  
    My search began by considering this week’s theme: Foolish love breaks the rules. I considered the three types of love: eros as romantic love, philia as brotherly love, and agape as divine or selfless love. This passage in Luke about healing lepers is an example of agape. Although agape is best demonstrated by God’s love through Jesus, we humans can strive for selfless love, which could be as simple as a caring smile or kind word to another. Such a simple action of human connection carries the potential for healing, particularly for one who may be feeling as undesirable as a leper. Foolish love requires one to trust completely, which society may deem foolish. One might say Jesus foolishly trusted the lepers would be healed by their own faith before showing up at the priest’s doorstep. He certainly knew that lepers were as worthy of healing as anyone. From Jesus’ example, I recognize the miraculous potential that comes from treating all human beings with basic kindness and respect. Even in situations in which laws or rules restrict the rights of certain individuals for safety reasons, we can still treat them with respect. As God’s children, we are all worthy of agape.
- Marcia Patterson

Thursday, February 29
Scripture Reading: Ruth 1:1-18
    One of my best friends and I have been close for about three years; we met back in 5th grade when playing a Kahoot. Through all the years we have been friends, we have had our fair share of ups and downs, but there is one story I want to tell. One day, when I walked into school, I noticed my friend was acting pretty sad. I didn’t think much of it then because it was early morning, and I thought she was tired. But she continued to be unhappy throughout the day, and I became worried. I tried to make her laugh to make her feel better, but it wasn’t working. After school, I asked her if she was okay. She told me it was nothing and that she was just tired, but I had a foreboding feeling that something was wrong. About an hour and a half or so later, I convinced her to get on a call with me, and I started to ask her if she was okay; she told me again that nothing was wrong and that I shouldn’t worry, but I insisted on trying to help her in any way I could. I finally convinced her to talk after I told her that I didn't care what was going on, I just wanted to make sure she was okay. My main takeaway from the passage is that even when people insist it's okay and you know something is up, you should do everything you can to help them. Helping people is something that Jesus spent his entire life doing, so if we can do anything we can to help one person, it could change their life.
- Elle Grace Brannan

Friday, March 1
Scripture Reading: John 4:1-41
    I love this new word game in the New York Times. No, not Wordle - that’s so 2022! Connections. There is a grid of 16 words that you must make into groups of 4 based on their connection to one another. Of course it’s not as easy as it seems because more often than not many of the words have multiple connections. Then again, some words seem to have no connections at all. Some connections are easy to see, while others make no sense until you see the end result. I enjoy it so much that my youngest son, my brother-in-law and I have a group text where we post our results everyday. You only get 4 chances to make all the connections, so this causes me to dig deeper into the meanings of each word.
     I mention this because when I received the topic for this devotional, I could not make the connection. Foolish love breaks rules. What does this mean in relation to Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well. What was their connection? By all accounts it seemed like there should be none. As the woman says at the beginning of the passage, Samaritans and Jews do not associate. One connection that is clear is that they both have Jacob as an ancestor. Jesus is traveling back to Galilee, but why would he choose to go through Samaria? Given what we know about the relationship between the two groups, he could have avoided this route. However, Jesus wants to connect with the Samaritans. Samaritans were considered idolaters because they worshipped other gods in addition to God. When he tells the woman he knows her history, she understands there is a deeper connection happening here. She first calls him a prophet, but when he tells her he is the One she speaks of, she makes the connection that he is the Messiah. Then she returns to tell the people of her town to come see this man who she thinks may be the Messiah - creating another connection now between her community and Jesus.
    So now I return to the connection of words. While these words, foolish love breaks rules, may not connect in the way I find in the game I play daily, when I go to their definition and write it a different way, the connection of those four words speaks to me. Just like they did with the Samaritan woman and Jesus at the well. Unwise, intense feelings of deep affection separate us from the governing conduct in a particular situation. Said another way, when we unabashedly show love in a way that allows us to not worry about the framework around it, that is when we find the deeper connection we have been looking for.
- Kelly Rainey

Saturday, March 2
Scripture Reading: Galatians 2:11-16
    Cephas was a politician. We see and hear them every day. He was happy going along. With his Gentile friends, he might have a little bacon on his tomato sandwich or put on his polyester-cotton blend underwear. But when confronted by the hyper-Jews who insisted on Gentiles being circumcised to join the Jesus movement, he reversed course. His finger was in the wind, and the wind was blowing a gale. He is, in this passage, called out for his hypocrisy.
    He, and we, are reminded that following dogmatic rules is really no help in becoming a follower of Jesus. This is justification by faith. If one truly has faith in Jesus then they follow Jesus. It is not whether one is in church every time the door opens or gives money enough to buy a new pipe organ. Those are all good things and a blessing, but it misses the point that faith in Jesus and living a life of love for our fellow human is what will bring the kingdom of God upon the earth. Feeding the hungry, standing up for the oppressed, caring for the sick, and speaking out when we see the winds of popular opinion billowing the sails of oppression and prejudice is the message of Jesus.
    Today there are those afraid of teaching history that does not sugar-coat the events of the past. There are those who would remove books long respected as epic works of literature or broaching topics long considered taboo. This is hurtful to those long oppressed. Many times, this is done in the name of religion. Christianity is liberating, or should be, notwithstanding a history of oppression in its name. The Inquisition, the middle passage slave trade, and the decimation of the Native American tribes (all while praising the glorious name of Jesus) are no different in their hypocrisy than old Cephas. We can do better. It’s all in what billows your sails.
- Jim Spears