Psalm 89:1-18; 2 Samuel 13:23-39; Acts 20:17-38; Mark 9:42-50
Seen anyone–anyone at all–take Jesus literally here? I haven’t, and all my life I’ve been surrounded by people who claim to take every word of Scripture as “God said, I believe it, that settles it.” And yet I have never seen a single person who gouged out an eye, cut off a hand, lopped off a foot. Is that because the good people of the Ozarks are somehow immune to the temptation to look at what they shouldn’t or use their hands to grasp what’s not theirs or let their feet walk ’em straight into trouble. Right….No one, friends, takes Jesus literally here. Everybody theologizes, interprets, explains away.
I don’t want to do that. I think He’s saying something really profound that needs our full attention. I don’t think it’s that we need to amputate our offending members, because Jesus often exaggerates to get His point across. No, I think He’s saying that we need to alter our patterns and repent of our choices. Real repentance, which means real amendment of life, real change. Especially repentance for those places where we blithely impact others without so much as a fare thee well.
We rarely ask ourselves how our choices, especially at the polls and with the words we fling at one another online, affect the least and last and lost. Your choices, friends, impact other people, and Jesus is saying be very, very careful when making them. Because if the net effect of my choice is to harm ‘these little ones,’ well, there’s a cost to be paid. So before you use words which will hurt someone, think about the cost. Before you cast your vote in the next election, think about how it will impact others. We’ve been told for a generation that we have the right to speak our mind no matter how crudely, rudely or cruelly, no matter how uninformed and foolishly, and that we need to vote our pocketbook. You have those rights, but that doesn’t make them ‘right.’ Those messages, while popular, are in direct contradiction of what Jesus says today. He’s saying speak the truth in a way that helps and doesn’t harm, and vote your neighbor’s uplift and not just your comfort.
And yes, He’s saying a whole lot more than that. But unless you’re willing to get out the bone saw, maybe we should just work on these things and leave the darker implications alone.