Cut off your hand...chop off your foot...pluck out your eye! it’s better for us to show up lame or blind in the Kingdom of God, than to not show up at all.
Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward. ~ Mark 9:38-50
A few weeks ago I made the comment that Jesus says some pretty weird stuff. What I failed to mention is that it happens pretty much every time he speaks. Today is no different.
Demons, Hell, Fire, Salt…It’s like every single Iron Maiden song that's ever been recorded. More than a flashback to our heavy metal days, Jesus offers us some pretty clear advice. In light of all the political nonsense that's been going in our nation’s capitol lately his message couldn't be any timelier.
How many of you think this "you're either with us or your against us" mentality has gone too far? I believe it is dividing our country.
Everyday on social media, I feel like I need to pick a side even though I know it's not going to do much good for our building real friendships, or do any real good for our country, or even the Kingdom of God if that is what we ought to be focused on.
Having heard a complaint by his disciples that someone outside their inner circle was casting out demons in Jesus' name, Jesus does something unexpected. He seems to side with those "other people" instead of with his own disciples. He seems to be telling them to worry about more about themselves. And he makes a pretty good point. If someone is wasting their time showing kindness in his name, then that's time not spent bad mouthing God.
This is good for us all, be it the world or in the Kingdom of God. Jesus realigns our focus so we can do right by God. That is the goal, right? To be righteous – to do right by God in the way we seek justice and peace, and love and care for one another. This is true whether or not you're a follower of Jesus.
But for those of us who do follow him, He warns us to make sure that we don't become a stumbling block to you or to others. If our job is to be a living testimony to God at work in the world, then we need to keep an eye on what we do. Both our faith and our faithfulness are at stake.
Yet we all have stumbling blocks that challenge us, and trip us up. And each one can jeopardize our faith. That's why Jesus said get rid of them. Cut them out like a surgeon does with cancer. He uses gruesome imagery to get our attention. Cut off your hand...chop off your foot...pluck out your eye it’s better for us to show up lame or blind in the Kingdom of God, than to not show up at all.
Now we all know there some things in you life that are easier than others to get rid of. A mean friend, for example, can be replaced with someone who is nicer. Leaving a bad job can lead to whole new career you never dreamed of. But admitting an addiction or dealing with the wounds of sexual assault some things are hard enough to face much less overcome. Still Jesus says cut them out of your life because they aren't doing you any good.
For me, it's self-doubt. I often compare myself to others, never feeling good enough, smart enough, or faithful enough to do what God is calling me to do. I know what it is. I've named it, and owned it as a part of who I am. Because of that, I can deal with it and work at cutting it out of my life – like a surgeon cutting out a cancerous tumor. But even a surgeon can't operate successfully on his or her self. Likewise, I lean on Jesus for guidance and support.
When I lean in him, I can hear him say, “Stop comparing your self to others. Be the person God created you to be. And let everyone else be who they’re meant to be. He even invites us to lay down our burdens on him - to set them at the foot of his cross. He redeems our past to make sure we don't become saltless, or useless, salt.
Today I want you to think about all the stumbling blocks in your life. How are they stopping you from doing what God has called you to do? Or how are they stopping others from seeing God's glory in the midst of a dark and divided world?
These last few weeks we’ve talked about kindness and putting yourself out there so God’s love can shine through you, and transform your community. We’ve learned that doing kind things leaves us vulnerable...but that too can be a strength. Now it's time to step it up one more notch. It's time to face those demons in our own lives and cast them out.
Jesus invites you to let go of the pain, the judgment, the anger, and all the stuff you carry so you can fully and faithfully participate in the Kingdom of God. Mark's gospel reminds us that our hands and feet are meant for doing God’s work.
We must be careful not to be distracted, or to take our eye off of what we are called to, but instead stay focused on the task at hand – to show God's love and kindness to all people. For it’s better for you and me to show up lame or blind in the Kingdom of God, than to not show up at all.
I have one last point. Did you notice that Jesus is talking about the kingdom of God...not heaven?
He began his ministry proclaiming the Kingdom of God is here. It's not coming soon or sometime after we die. It's happening right now! Every time we participate in God's love and peace, we participate and live in God’s Kingdom.
But we can't fully or faithfully thrive here if we're still holding on to our sins. And doing things that divide us from God and one another.
Through his life, death, and resurrection Jesus has redeemed us from our sins. With his sacrifice, he claimed us and named us brothers and sisters – children of God. We are one people. We are united with one purpose. To share the love and grace of God, as Christ shared it with us.
Whatever it is that’s stopping you from truly living like Jesus taught...cut it out. Get rid of it. Before it gets rid of you.
This week I am challenging you to take a good look within your self.
Find any past mistakes and make amends. Let go of any sin, anger or hurt that’s holding you back from being who God made you to be: a beloved child filled with light and love.
And remember to first change yourself before you try to change others. Show others how God has worked in your life as a way to lead them to follow suite.
By lopping off those things that cause you to stumble – things that get in the way of being good and faithful disciples – you can live and thrive in the Name of Jesus.
And when all our actions are united in his love, then everything we do will truly bear fruit for eternal life.