Maybe you have seen the movie. I’m talking about 127 Hours, the incredible story of Aron Ralston who became trapped in a climbing accident and to escape, cut off his right forearm. Because he took this drastic action, he is alive to talk about it. I don’t know about you, but one of my main reactions to his story is: would I have been able to do something like that if I was in that situation?
I thought about that as I read again these startling words from Jesus. “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where “‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’[Mark 19: 43-48)
Obviously Jesus is speaking figuratively. Amputating body parts won’t extinguish temptation. The blind still can lust; the maimed still can act selfishly. But even though he is speaking figuratively, that doesn’t mean he isn’t speaking seriously. Jesus is dead serious.
With these striking words Jesus is emphasizing the importance of cutting off anything within ourselves that is causing us to stumble into sin. Looking a little closer at his words, two details jump off of the page for me. One is that word “stumble”. It’s repeated three times. The picture is of something that I didn’t see as I was walking along but it trips me up and causes me to fall. Something that I didn’t perceive as an obstacle. It’s more the foot of his own teammate that trips up the quarterback than the opposing linebacker who sacks him. In other words, we need to be alert to all stumbling-blocks in ourselves - especially ones that don’t look like stumbling blocks.
The second detail that caught my attention is that all three body parts Jesus mentions are important ones: eye, hand, and foot. He doesn’t talk about pulling a tooth, or cutting off a toe. Often the things that trip us up are things that are very important to us. How many people haven’t wandered from the Lord because they were consumed by advancing their careers or because they put the love of a family member ahead of Jesus?
Don’t get me wrong. Careers and family are both good. But sometimes “self” gets in the way. It can cause people to do anything to get ahead in their careers. It can make people put family before Jesus.
It can be painful sacrificing some career choices because they would force us to put Jesus on the back burner. It can be painful putting Jesus before family. But it’s worth it! Three times Jesus says that this “is better” – much better to do that. Nothing – absolutely nothing – is better than putting Jesus first. Keeping Jesus and his sacrifice at the center of our lives is what life is all about – now and for all eternity.
One final thought for you to ponder. Could one of the things in your life that you need to amputate be the fear of witnessing? Think about it. Lying behind that fear is concern about “self”. “What will people think of me?” “What happens if people get angry at me?” “What is I say the wrong thing?” Do you see the common thread? It’s me, me, me. Witnessing involves amputating that self-centered fear.
We can help you make this sacrifice by coaching you every step of the way in witnessing to LDS missionaries. Each week more and more people are not only overcoming their fears of witnessing but also experiencing the great joy of sharing their faith. And to a person they talk about how this has helped them grow greatly in their own faith. At the very least, if you haven’t yet done so, go to pleaseonpenthedoor.com and take some time to learn more about this. We are convinced that this is one of the easiest – yes, easiest - ways for you to overcome those fears. I hope you join us in witnessing to LDS missionaries!