Jesus loves us fiercely. God hears the cries of the brokenhearted and of those whose voices have been silenced. God feels the pain of those who are being rejected and forgotten. It is humbling to think that sometimes our actions put stumbling blocks in the paths of others.
When Jesus shares these strong words about removing body parts if they cause us to stumble, it sounds pretty gory! Really? Is it that important? I hear in this teaching the fierce love of a God who will do anything to help us avoid the destruction of our souls. I hear the strength and compassion of Christ, who urges us to understand that nothing is worth missing the love and grace of God. Nothing.
Life can get pretty messy sometimes. It may not be a hand that causes us to stumble. It may be a friendship that is destructive or an addiction that is taking captive our days and relationships. It may be a way we are eating that is hurting our bodies or a habit that is eroding our self-confidence. Jesus is saying, “Stop! It’s not worth it!”
We hear this echoed in Hebrews 12:12-13: “Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.”
We continue to face the challenges life presents. But when we remove the sources that cause us to stumble, we are able to walk in our healing rather than in our affliction. And as we are healed, those around us are blessed by God.
Lord, we stumble so often on the journey. And sometimes we cause others to stumble by putting blocks in their way. Forgive this destructive behavior, and transform our minds to follow the path of wholeness and grace that you offer us each day. Thank you for your faithfulness. Amen.
The Jewish people have faced possible destruction numerous times. The story begins not with the Holocaust in Europe but far back in history during the time of Esther. The wicked Haman plots to wipe out God’s people, but God saves the people through Esther’s courage. The psalmist praises God for this kind of salvation from seemingly impossible circumstances. Although we may not face genocide, we have our own struggles. James encourages us to pray with faith, believing that God can and will answer. Our prayers are powerful, James assures us. Jesus teaches us the importance of letting nothing stand between God and us. Using vivid hyperbole, he admonishes us to put the pursuit of God above everything else and to support others in that same pursuit.
Read Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22. When have you chosen to speak out in a way that made you vulnerable in order to help someone else?
Read Psalm 124. Recall a time when you had a strong sense of God’s being on your side. What was the situation? How did that assurance come?
Read James 5:13-20. How do the members of your faith community pray with and for one another?
Read Mark 9:38-50. Whoever is not against you is for you. How can you share God’s love with those outside your inner circle?
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