“However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and Me.” – Matthew 17:27
On July 1, 2015, 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle, while walking with her father and a friend along Pier 14 in the Embarcadero district of San Francisco, was shot by Jose Inez Garcia Zarate. He initially claimed that he fired at a sea-lion, then that he fired accidentally while picking up the gun which he claimed he had found moments before, wrapped in cloth beneath the bench on which he was sitting. The shot ricocheted off the concrete deck of the pier striking the victim in the back. Steinle died two hours later in the hospital as a result of her injuries.
The shooting elicited controversy and political debate over San Francisco’s status as a sanctuary city, as Zarate is a Mexican national unlawfully residing in the United States. He had been deported on five separate occasions on felony charges, returned to the United States and then harbored by the adopted state sanctuary law. – Wikipedia
In the chosen opening Bible passage, Christ, Himself, although God and law itself, obeyed the tax laws of the region. He tells Peter to take the coin and pay the tax for both of them so not to create a scandal. Not only in this instance, but, again, He would submit Himself to Roman law under Pilate at a much greater price. After Pilate, frustrated by Christ’s silence, told Him: “Don’t you know that I have the power to crucify you or free you;” Christ made it clear that Pilate would have no power over Him if it had not been given to Pilate from above.
Christ through word and action reveals to us that authority, whether of God or man, must be respected. And by his death on the cross we find that authority can be on occasion unjust and illegitimate, if, like Pilate, those who possess that authority do not acknowledge that they do so by God’s good grace.
As there were two sides to the coin retrieved from the fish, so too there are two types of laws. Those directly conveyed by God and those derived by man. Laws fashioned from man can never be perfect, for man himself is flawed. Only laws fashioned from God can avoid absurdity. The death of Christ had divine purpose. For through his death, eternal life and humanity’s relationship with God is restored. Kate’s assailant was found not guilty of murder or manslaughter. In this case Kate is left in absurdity, for her death will only serve purpose in right justice. Common sense alone tells us that this travesty of justice can only be resolved, not only in the refutation of the case outcome, but also in the renewed effectiveness of law itself, when the rights and protection of citizens are of the first order.
Often events as these that seem so distant from us are closer than we may think. To bring home this point let’s return to that pier on that sunny warm beautiful day. All is as it was, except, that it is you who hears Kate’s final words: “Dad, help me!” In place of Kate there lie’s your daughter struggling for breath as she clings to life. It is you, in anguish, who helplessly holds her in your arms. And for an instant you recall the day your daughter was born; the innocent and purest part of yourself, for whom this tragic moment was not the future promise that you had envisioned.
Action and inaction have consequences. The consequences of that day in July would have with great certainty ended with both father and daughter returning home with a fond memory of a beautiful day shared. Rather, the calm – which is all too often taken for granted – is in an instant changed to chaos, ushered in by a shot that rang out and a bullet that found a mark. The day ended not in the warm comfort of home, but in a cold hospital morgue.
This event was uncalled for. This absurdity need not have come to be. The Supremacy Clause of the Constitution establishes federal law as the highest form of law in the United States legal system. It requires the state judges to defer to federal law even if state laws or constitutions conflict. “It is estimated, by Americans for Legal Immigration, that more than 3,000 U.S citizens lose their lives each year due to the insufficient enforcement of our existing border laws. Had the San Francisco authorities held Zarate in custody until federal warrants were obtained rather than turning him loose into the public, then there would have been no motivation for this post. For, Zarate would not have been on that pier that day in July. And Kate and her family would not have suffered such an unnecessary grievous fate.
Governmental agencies, lacking a firm grip on objective truth, must enact an abundance of convoluted laws to avoid chaos and achieve some semblance of commonality among its citizens. Christ, who is absolute truth itself, voiced but two simple cohesive yet challenging laws for mankind to follow: To love God and to love one another. When we fail to properly administer and obey laws, no one is safe nor saved.