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 9 verses 43-48.
Do you think Jesus is talking about hell here? If you didn’t answer “yes,” perhaps you need to read it again. Is He talking about eternal burning in an unending fire? Maybe; there isn’t enough information to know whether this is direct reference or a metaphor.
Why am I asking this? I’m on the bandwagon of people who decry our nation’s ignorance of hell. Just this past month, a group of Satanists unveiled a statue in Detroit of Satan; it’s their 1st Amendment right, just as it’s someone else’s to call that “dumb.” Don’t these people fear hell? ISIS murders innocent people by the thousands in ways that are, um, creative and titillating: don’t they fear hell? People do unspeakable things to little children, or even to defenseless animals that are part of God’s creation for our enjoyment: don’t they fear hell?
I live in the south, so there’s no shortage of churches that will give you your fill of hellfire and brimstone preaching that will, in the least, motivate you to contemplate the domain of the devil. Let’s face it: it’s a sobering yet healthy thing to confront the idea that there really is evil in our world. The place our just and loving God has reserved for evil once our world has ended is hell. The previous verses in this chapter are only a few of some throughout the Bible that tell us of how damnation awaits those who consciously refuse to believe in Jesus. Whether it’s literal fire, the absence of love, or something else, it will be more unpleasant than anything we could imagine.
But here’s where I’d like to go in a different direction. Instead of just asking again “don’t they fear hell,” perhaps we could better serve our world by asking “how can I introduce them to Jesus?” The presence of evil isn’t evidence of the absence of Jesus so much as it is the acceptance of the consequences when we turn away from Jesus. The longer I live, the more I see Jesus is with me every minute, even when evil prevails. He’s there even when evil shows up on our doorstep, in our hearts, throughout our words and actions when we turn in even subtle ways. Satan can only exploit us if we let him.
Just like he can only exploit those folks who let him have his way in their lives. Jesus is with us throughout. Instead of standing by, watching while others choose destruction, how about we bridge their self-made gap to Christ? “Do you know Him?” “Can I take a few minutes to tell you about Him?” Those words might mean the difference between someone using their Jesus-given gift of free will to move forward for Him instead of downward towards the realm of the evil one.
Lord, keep me from temptation and forgive my sins.
Read Mark 9, verses 42-50.