Religious law is all the same. Whether it is Jewish law, Shariah law or Puritan law; it is designed to make the strong look good and the weak look wicked. When the disciples 'harvested' corn on the Sabbath (Matt 12:1) the Pharisees accused them of unlawfulness. Exodus 31:15 says that anyone who does any work on the Sabbath must be put to death. Jesus, who fulfilled the Law completely must have been expected to start stoning Peter, James and John and the rest. Instead he condemns the Pharisees. Treating them like schoolchildren he mocks them, "Haven't you read your Bible?" Then he quotes three Old Testament examples concerning Prophet, Priest and King. The King is King David who ate the Shew Bread (that should not have been eaten except by the priests) when he was on the run from Saul at Nob. The Priests are of course kept especially busy on the Sabbath. The Prophet is Hosea from whom Jesus quotes, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." (Hos 6:6). That passage from Hosea begins, "Come let us return to the LORD," but I fear that our churches turn sinners away with their emphasis on respectability.
I have been watching the TV series, LOST on DVD. I have almost finished up to the end of the third season. Some might find it low-brow trash and that I should be reading 'Wuthering Heights' and 'The Millon the Floss' but I find it compulsive stuff.
For those who don't know, the premise is that a flight from Sydney to Los Angleles goes down over the Pacific, but there are survivors that turn up on a mysterious island (that looks a bit like rural Hawaii). The island has many mysterious powers: a paraplegic begins to walk, a cancer patient is cured. It also has many strange artefacts, signs of some sort of peace project with strange scientific experiments from the 1980s. However, of more importance is the presence of the 'Others', inhabitants who steal the survivors' children and some of their number who were on a list. Those left behind mostly seem to be very flawed characters. Many are murderers, but others have other besetting sins like gluttony, theft, lying, hatred of parents and adultery. Nevertheless, despite their evil deeds they seem to be very engaging characters and as we see their back-stories we see that there are often extenuating circumstances for their behaving as they did.
On particular character, Mr Eko, is apparently a Nigerian Catholic priest (Eko is thw name of the settlement that eventually became Lagos). In his back-story we learn that as a boy gangsters came into his village stealing children as recruits. His younger brother was ordered to shoot an old man or be killed himself. To save his brother, Eko takes the gun and shoots the old man himself. this begins his life as a gangster while his brother, Yemi, becomes a priest.
Eko now a fully fledged gangster leader asks Yemi to help him smuggle heroin by giving him a large number of Virgin Mary statues to hide it in, and also the use of the plane, in return for a large sum of money. When Yemi refuses, Eko threatens to burn the church down if he doesn't sign documents that allow him and his henchmen to appear as priests. Yemi reluctantly agrees. However as they try to board the plane Yemi is shot by the army and Eko mistaken for a real priest; he returns as Yemi's replacement to the village. Here, he commits further 'justifiable' homicides. Eventually he finds himself among the survivors on the island. Even here he cannot keep from killing. Eventually seeking absolution he sees an apparition of his dead brother who urges him to confess and repent. His reply is, "I have nothing to confess. I did what I had to do." Then appears the 'monster' which kills him.
Goodness knows what this series is about. The island apparently does not represent purgatory or Hell. But it does bring home certain undeniable points, 1 All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. 2 Most of us can point to extenuating circumstances to excuse our sin. 3 Excuses won't wash. 4 We are responsible for our own behavior.
Paul sums up how we should behave in Colossians chapter 3:Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
That way we will accept sinners into our churches, churches who don'y are like hospitals that turn away patients.