When I was serving as a police officer in my 20’s and early 30’s one of the most difficult aspects of the job was dealing with the abuse and misuse of children. I simply lost the ability to see the perpetrator as a person. They had hurt a child. I just found it almost impossible to keep perspective when it came to children being mistreated.
But I guess that’s understandable because when we so degenerate into excusing the mistreatment and even killing of the most vulnerable among us, we quickly approach more of an animal state than human.
Look at our lesson today in Mark 9:42-50; 10:1:
The Lord said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. For every one will be salted with fire and every sacrifice will be salted with salt. Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again; and again, as his custom was, he taught them.
Jesus seems to reserve His most pointed and, frankly, scary language for those who cause “one of these little ones who believe in me to sin.” He sets a standard that it is better to “cut off” parts of yourself than to descend into the delusions of hell!
Strong language from the Lord and He uses the imagery of “fire” and “salt” to bring the point home to us.
“Fire” here refers to unending torments. But think about this for a minute. Can you imagine anything more horrible than having an unquenchable desire that always grows stronger but can never be satisfied? That “burning” desire, untamed and undisciplined, will burn you up! A life lived based on being enslaved by our desires can only be described as “hell.” And Jesus warns us to NEVER cause others to fall into that slavery by our own slavery to our passions! It would be better to be drowned in the sea than to leave a legacy that causes others to believe the way to happiness is indulging all our desires without discipline and wisdom.
“Salt” here refers to the seasoning and preserving nature of this very valuable commodity in Jesus’ day. Isn’t it interesting how He says that everyone, you and me included, will be “salted” with fire. Our lives are very much given flavor and preserved by the myriad of talents and abilities and creativities that all of us possess. But the “salt” loses its purpose when all of these abilities and talents and desires are untamed, undeveloped, and undisciplined by wisdom. Jesus tells us to “have salt” within yourself and be at peace!
Today, is your life burning up with ever growing desires that are unsalted by wisdom and discipline? Our Orthodox Faith invites us to the communion with Christ that both disciplines our desires AND seasons our lives with the true purpose of our gifts. Being Orthodox on Purpose sets me free to be truly alive!
P.S. The month is already half over and the season of celebration approaches. In your year end charity plans please consider a gift to Faith Encouraged Ministries. Go to www.faithencouraged.org and make your gift today. Thank you!