So this post is partially inspired by an essay I just turned in on Shakespeare's Richard III. (Sidenote: while I'm aware of the play's historical inaccuracies and I'm actually inclined to take a sympathetic view of the historical Richard III, I'm dealing completely within the realm of Shakespeare's world here).
Technically, towards the end of the play, Henry Tudor commits treason by revolting against King Richard. At the same time, Richard has unrepentantly murdered children and his friends and brother, and so Henry's revolt is seen in a redeeming light, and rightfully so. Yes, he broke the law. But there was something more important at stake, was there not? People were at stake.
In Nazi Germany, people broke the law and lied to hide their Jewish friends. And we cheer them as heroes, again, rightfully so. Time and time again, throughout history, many of our heroes went against the because there were people at stake under the law.
Even in the Bible, Rahab lies to hide the Israelite spies, who probably would have been executed if caught. I remember being taken aback the first time I heard a pastor say that she was wrong to lie, but that it was understandable since she barely knew God then. I'd always figured that, given the circumstances, she'd been right to lie because she was saving the lives of two people who happened to serve God (another sidenote: the Israelite's massacre of the people of Jericho is a matter I'm not addressing here, because I have no idea what to make of that).
But, anyways, he was a pastor, so I figured he was right: Rahab just should have trusted God, told the truth, and it all would have worked out. And, I mean, I've heard stories in which people did exactly that, and God apparently did protect them. For instance, a woman in Nazi Germany tells the Nazis' she's hiding Jews under her table, and in fact there was a trapdoor there, but the officer just thought she was insane. Or a man told a patrol he was carrying Bibles, and the officer simply laughed at him.
Still, I'm not sure I believe this is the best way anymore. It seems akin to handling snakes in your worship service - and I'm sure most of us heard about that tragedy last week.
After all, didn't Jesus himself say the first commandment was to love God with all we have, and the next was to love people as ourselves? And, in a way, Rahab imitated Jesus then, by taking a sin on herself to keep others from death. Granted, Jesus didn't actually commit a sin, however.
Yes, lies are false. But in these case, a lie was said to preserve the lives of people. Is the value of people, beloved and made in the image of God, not a truth in itself? Perhaps a truth more important than knowing where people are?
I have no answers here. All I'm saying is, maybe strict adherence to the laws, so valued in many faith communities, isn't exactly how it's supposed to go.
If you have thoughts or questions, please let me know. I'd really value other perspectives on this.