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By Thomas B. Iwanowski

Recently there was a great deal of controversy and confusion in the National Football League when the members of the NFL Referees Association were on strike. Fans and players alike were unhappy with the performance of the replacement referees. It was claimed that the fill-in referees were making wrong calls, so wrong that a disputed call in the end zone gave the Seahawks a win over the Packers in the game played September 24, 2012.

Players and fans want officials who make certain that the rules of the game are impartially enforced, that correct calls are made on every play - otherwise confusion reigns. Football games, like all sports, have set rules that determine how games are to be played and scored. And all sports have referees charged with enforcing those rules.

But it is not only sports that have rules and officials who ensure regulations are followed. There are directives that govern education, and there are teachers and administrators charged with enforcing those directives. There are laws that govern the interaction between citizens, and there are police officers charged with enforcing those laws. There are codes of conduct that govern the actions of lawyers and doctors, and there are review boards charged with seeing those codes are obeyed.

Life also has its rules - rules proclaimed in the scriptures and taught by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who embodies the way and the truth of life. In this Sunday's Gospel (Mark 10:2-16), the Pharisees ask Jesus "Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?" Jesus answers that question by referring to God's original plan, God's original rule. Basing his reply on the account of creation, Jesus says, "God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate." Jesus then applies that rule in an explicit manner. "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."

Certainly that ruling by Jesus is a challenge, especially in our day when divorce is so prevalent and when there are so many societal forces arrayed against lifelong fidelity and commitment. That ruling which explicitly defines marriage as God joining together a man and woman also stands against those who would redefine marriage to include the union of two people of the same sex....

When people change the rules, or apply the rules incorrectly, chaos ensues. We saw that on the football field, and unfortunately, we are seeing that same chaos creep across the playing field of life.

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