Stepping off stage after speaking, a woman leads another young woman by the hand who sees only the floor in front of her feet as they approach. The first asks if I would speak to her friend. Without meeting my eyes, she slowly tells of a friend since childhood who married a Jewish man and converted to Judaism, then after a long depression had just committed suicide. She loved her friend very much and was afraid she was now in hell.
Rejecting Christianity, committing suicide—two third strikes in a row. When she finally did look at me, the pain was heartbreaking, pleading for an alternative, a way of doing the math that didn’t add up to the answer she feared.
How would you have answered?
A question like this is only difficult from a legal perspective where breaking certain rules requires God’s eternal indifference. Indifference. After all, even God can’t stay mad forever, can he?
Jesus literally killed himself showing us his new math: the sum of a relationship that never rests on law plus the sum of a law that never rests on rules—a quality of heart that rules could help form, but only lovingkindness beyond any sense of duty could fulfill.
Converting to Judaism was one young woman’s way of loving her husband, of finding unity in her home among future children, maybe an expression of codependence and fear, but not a rejection of God. In the altered state of her pain, suicide seemed the only way forward, but she didn’t want to die; she wanted the hurting to stop. If I can understand these distinctions and find compassion, what does it say of a god who cannot?
We all break the rules, but do we really break God’s heart? Jesus is showing us that rules are not absolute. They are temporary guides to hold us in place long enough—like a jello mold—until they are no longer needed for the shape of our hearts.
Jesus broke the rules of his day to show us how lovingkindness was the only rule that mattered, that sometimes you had to break the rules in order to fulfill the law. Our God is a rule breaker. Always breaking in our favor when we deserve it least.