Love, Not Loopholes: Reflections on Mark 10:2-16

W. C. Fields wasn’t the only one who to read the Bible “looking for loopholes.” The Pharisees were noted experts in God’s law codes, and yet they wanted to know Jesus’ opinion: “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife.”

I’m certain they went on, as many rabbis did, to wonder if, when the law mention’s a man who divorces his wife for “an objectionable thing” adultery only was intended, or any cause at all.

The men are at it again, looking for loopholes. Keeping control of their women.

It seems we have always been so conflicted and confused about sex and relationships that it twists us up when it comes to pondering God’s will. And so, the most sexually conservative cultures on earth spawn the most tortured sex. There is an entire sub-cast in India dedicated to prostitution. Young girls there are beaten if they don’t give the men what they want and if they don’t earn money for their owners. And their culture tells them they can’t expect any other kind of life.

Roman Catholic priests are undoubtedly attracted to the false promise that giving up sex is a more religious form of life and the prayers of the centuries will enable them to keep vows to renounce the impulses that haunt them. And the church has devised a way for them to preserve their façade of abstinence that will also cover their sins of abuse.

And in this context we are forced by some to consider same sex marriage and the conservative side of our minds focus in on Jesus’ focus on Scripture’s “From the beginning of Creation God made them male and female…”

Regardless of how we define marriage we should take heed that we lay aside looking for loopholes and try to discern God’s original design and the ideal of our lives. Certainly it is some sort of sexual propriety and responsibility in our relationships. Certainly it is not looking at any partner as a means to the end of our satisfaction, but as a partner fit for us—an equal in dignity and worth. When the lust wears away the love that God commands should take over. A human being is not something we can ever brush aside when things get messy.

Which brings us directly to the very next little episode in Mark—the little children. Should the little children be let in. These who are in a habit of being untidy and unpredictable-who, for the sake of our convenience and comfort , should be seen and not heard.

Jesus again yanks us out of our tendency to look to God for loopholes  and says, “Let them come to me, for to such belongs the Kingdom.”

To what such? Not to those who have become worried and weary adults and put aside all thinking and questioning to be “childish” in their faith, but to those who do not indulge their conflicts by looking for loopholes. Such ones come to Jesus for the love that makes meaning out of all of life. That love then, the ultimate original purpose and design of God, becomes the right motive of our seeking. We no longer look for loopholes—why and when should we divorce, why and when deny access to Jesus—who do we allow to marry and who not to marry–but we look for ways of loving as we have been loved.

Loving without loopholes is a great way of living life.

About John

John is a retired pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who has served congregations for over 40 years, including in rural, suburban, campus ministry and urban settings. His love of Border Collie sheepdogs has been fortified by his many friendships with shepherds all around the world. Nothing he has ever or will ever accomplish is as significant as the patience God, his wife and his friends have shown in putting up with his deficiencies.
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