Today’s reading was Mark 9:42-49
42 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. 43 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.  45 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.  47 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, 48 where
“‘the worms that eat them do not die,
and the fire is not quenched.’
49 Everyone will be salted with fire.
This passage addresses two sorts of sin. The first is the obvious sin that causes others to stumble. The second is the sin which seems primarily to affect ourselves. In both cases a drastic response is required.
How do we cause others to stumble? At one extreme of action, we sin in ways that are clear, and are not seen to care or repent. To these delicate observers, it appears that we treat holiness and the commands of God casually. Whether we like it or not, those of us that call ourselves Christians are living examples to both believers and unbelievers of what it means to lead a life devoted to Christ. And though we might say it is unfair to judge Christ, or Christians as a whole by our behavior, that is exactly what people will do. I’ve met many people over the years who have strong objections to the gospel, not because of the person of Jesus, but because of the behavior of Christians that has scarred and scared them. When people look at us, and know we are Christians, they will be asking the question: “If I become a Christian, is this what I would be like?” And if what they are presented with is awful or hypocritical, don’t be surprised if they are turned off from the gospel, or believe it has no real power to change lives.
Conversely, a transformed life that truly reveals the love and grace and peace of Jesus is a powerful advertisement for the difference that Christ can make in a life. How do we demonstrate this difference? For one thing, with our reactions. When we are attacked and criticized, do we respond like a rabid dog, or do we simply rest in the security of knowing that we are loved and valued by our Father in heaven?
If our security is in God, then we are less vulnerable to the slings and arrows of earthly opinion, and freed up to respond rather than react.
What would it look like for you to respond rather than react, the next time someone criticizes you? How powerful would it be for you to respond with, “I’m sorry you feel like that, and I’m sorry that I disappointed you.” For a world that mostly expects counter-attack to criticism, this could be a very disarming and counter-cultural response. The likelihood of de-escalation and reconciliation is much stronger after such a comment, compared to the typical counter-attack which focuses on the faults of the accuser.
Remember, accusation belongs to Satan – the Chief Accuser. Reconciliation belongs to Christ.
More on this passage tomorrow.
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