Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Jesus and The 'Cutting Edge'


Jesus said, "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off" (Mark 9:43).

What if your hand is causing you to die? Cut it off!

On April 26, 2003 Aron Ralston, a young man and expert Aspen climber, got trapped as he was hiking in the Canyonlands National Park in Utah. An 800-pound boulder shifted onto his arm as he climbed through a narrow ravine. Five days later, after running out of water and wondering if rescuers would ever find him, Aron cut off his arm with a pocket knife. He repelled down the mountain and hiked 5 miles before he was found by a Dutch vacationing family.

Terry Mercer, a helicopter pilot with the Utah Highway Patrol, said after seeing Aron, "I've never seen anybody that had this much desire and this much tenacity to stay with it and stay alive."

Radical decision. Painful action. Continuing life. These are part of Aron Ralston's story. Jesus teaches us that these issues must be part of our story as well. Sin can be the 800-pound boulder pinning us down and causing life to seep away. "Cut off your hand!" Jesus counsels. Just as we do not condemn Aron Ralston for "mutilating" his body, as a matter fact we admire him, so we do not accept the perjorative claim that Jesus is fanatically calling his followers to self-mutilation. Yes, the terms are strong and, yes, Jesus uses hyperbole, but only to emphasize the seriousness of life in the kingdom of God (versus the alternative).

Sin will kill us. And in this part of Mark's Gospel, the sin Jesus has in mind is that of forsaking him and his gospel way. The sin is obedience to the impulse to lay the cross down and find an easier way to be a Christian. Jesus is strongly warning us to not let anything dilute our loyalty to him and divert us from living the Jesus Way, the way of the cross. It is better to be crippled and be alive than to be whole and be dead. In hell dead.

Radical decision. Painful act. Continuing life. I would want the helicopter pilot, Terry Mercer, to say of my loyalty to Jesus and the gospel of the kingdom, "I've never seen anybody that had this much desire and this much tenacity to stay with it and stay alive." Wouldn't you want that said of your life of following Jesus?

In the USAmerican church we've created powder-puff Christianity and Lazy-Boy discipleship and Sleep-Comfort worship. We're into Super-size me...Me! The last thing we will ever imagine is taking a pocket knife to our soul and experiencing the pain that leads to life. "Oh no, let's not get too fanatical about this Jesus stuff. 'Radical' is not in my vocabulary." It's alright to imagine Jesus bleeding to death on the cross (or to see it portrayed in The Passion of the Christ), but not one drop of our blood, not one bead of our sweat, not one tear from our eyes in the cosmic challenge of following Jesus.

God, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

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12 Comments:

At 10/09/2007 6:22 PM, Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

Amen John. Very well spoken. Straight home to the soul. Yes, I'm afraid sin is not treated by the likes of us at all with the same seriousness we find it treated with here by Jesus and in Scripture.

It can turn into all about getting people to like what's going on, instead of really following Jesus as he tells us in Scripture.

Ouch, it hurts, and can hurt badly. But what's the alternative. A numbing of the soul and it's eventual shrivelling in smallness and then death.

 
At 10/10/2007 7:13 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

Ted,
Yes, brother, good thoughts about Jesus and the seriousness of sin. Thanks for sharing them.

 
At 10/10/2007 7:58 AM, Anonymous Bob Smallman said...

John, may I have permission to reprint this column in a bulletin insert for our folks?

 
At 10/10/2007 8:01 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

Bob,
I am honored you asked. Yes, reprint away!
Thanks, Brother, and God bless your ministry.

 
At 10/10/2007 10:54 PM, Blogger Greg said...

Thanks John. Powerful stuff in an age of Christianity lite. Keep going. I now have up over my way Exodus church part 5 and I believe it resonates with this.

 
At 10/11/2007 5:32 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

Greg,
Christianity Lite--that's it. Thanks, again, for stopping by.

 
At 10/11/2007 5:28 PM, Anonymous bryan riley said...

I can say that ignoring one's call for six years is like being Jonah, getting on the boat for Spain, and, as life begins unraveling the only way out is to jump ship or to "cut off" the errant choice of not following God's direction. It's not easy or pretty, but when we draw near to Him, He is good on His word to draw near to us. When we need His grace most and seek it, He is always gracious to share.

Great post.

 
At 10/12/2007 6:54 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

bryan,
I'm with you on that. Thanks for commenting!

 
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At 10/23/2009 8:24 PM, Blogger Rachel said...

Hi,
I know this is an old post, but I was browsing and I came across this entry. It speaks a lot of truth. Encouragment, too, for me, as God calls me to some hard places. I was wondering if I could cross post this, to my own online journal and perhaps to facebook?

Thanks,
Rachel

 
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