To Save a Life

On another day of rest—a holy day, Jesus went into a synagogue to teach. A man whose right hand was paralyzed was there. The experts in Moses’ Teachings and the Pharisees were watching Jesus closely. They wanted to see whether he would heal the man on the day of rest—a holy day so that they could find a way to accuse him of doing something wrong. But Jesus knew what they were thinking. So he told the man with the paralyzed hand, “Get up, and stand in the center of the synagogue!” The man got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you—what is the right thing to do on a day of rest—a holy day: to do good or evil, to give a person his health or to destroy it?”– Luke 6:6-9


In the summer of 2012, Hallandale Beach Florida lifeguard Tomas Lopez was fired for saving a man’s life.

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He was terminated because the drowning man was just outside the zone patrolled by the company that employed Lopez, who told one reporter: “I’m not going to put my job over helping someone. I’m going to do what I felt was right, and I did.”  Lopez knew he was crossing from his “zone” to the one not covered by the company that employs him. The line is marked by a green flag. At the same time, he could actually see the drowning man. So, he acted and a life was saved.

While the hero was eventually offered his job back (he declined), the point had been made, lifeguards guard lives, no matter “the zone.”

It was this same monumental-missing-of-the-point that Jesus was addressing with the Pharisees in Luke 6. Even in the end, the Pharisees come out “furious,” completely overlooking the irony (or, more accurately, folly) of arguing the rules of the Sabbath with the Lord of the Sabbath (Luke 6:5).

It’s easy to mock the Pharisees, until I recall times when my behavior was similar, when I held others to legalistic standards, or offered only limited forgiveness or insisted on a little revenge. Then, it’s important to remember Jesus’ rhetorical question: “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” (Luke 6:9b).

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