May 27, 2011

Your Right Arm

Have you ever heard the expression, 'I'd give my right arm for X'? A teen in my youth group accidently discovered what he would give his right arm for the other day. He quite literally gave (at least temporarily) his right arm to do a cool skateboarding trick. He tried to tackle a rather difficult 360 turn, only to fall, fracture his arm and give himself a mild concussion.. He OK, but he will be in a cast for at least 4 weeks.

In that spirit let me ask you, what would you give your right arm for? Or to phrase it more Christianly; what would cause you to cut off your right hand?

After my visit to hospital to see my skateboarding friend this passage has been bouncing around in my mind;

'If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of  your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell'. Matthew 5:29-30

This admittedly is not a passage I have spent a lot of time reflecting on before. First it is a little gruesome; I prefer to think about Jesus blessing children over suggesting one ought to gouge their eye out. Second I felt I understood it well enough so why dwell.

Jesus is saying that Heaven, or salvation, is too valuable to let anything stand in your way from getting it. To really drive home the point Jesus talked about self maiming. Heaven is more valuable then sin, but will not abide sin.Therefore we must rid our lives of sin, even if it costs us our right arm.

This seems like a dramatic ask. What do you mean I may have to cut off my arm to successfully turn from sin? But in the end it wasn't the most dramatic ask Jesus would make. This was,

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? Matthew 16:24.

The final ask wasn't our eye, or even our arm, the final ask was for our life. 

Why this picture you might ask, because the concept is the same
but far less gruesome than pictures of severing an arm.
Not that long ago the small group I belong to was wrestling with the question, is Christianity easy or hard? My first inclination is to say easy. After all Jesus promised to bring a light yoke, and we consistently say that our salvation is a gift of grace and mercy not something we earned. Receiving a gift is easy; isn't it?

Maybe, but then again maybe not.

Maybe the problem is we have focused so much on the idea of salvation as a gift we have missed focusing on another equally strong descriptor of the gospel; that it is a contract.

Did you wince a little at the idea of the gospel being a contract? Would the word covenant make you feel better?

Either way the concept is the same. And when we look at scripture we find that Paul, who championed the idea of salvation through faith also championed the idea of being a slave to righteousness, or being bought at a price.

This would lead me to believe that Christianity is in fact hard. That is is something like being an indentured servant.

Actually it is when the two pictures come together that it all finally makes sense.We were slaves to sin, unable to buy our way out of that life, no matter how hard we tried. What is worse there is nothing we can do about it. We earned no money to pay our debt. All we could do was hope that someone else might pay our price for us. However everyone we met seemed to have the same problem. We were all slaves to the same cruel master. No one had the cash to spare.

Then Jesus came money in hand so to speak, and gave us the opportunity to have our debt paid by him. However the deal was not that he would pay our debt and we would go on our merry way. The deal was he would pay our debt and we would than work for him. He would pay our price to our current master, and he would become our new master. He would train us, equip us, and send us. But make no mistake he will work us, and his expectations are high.

Is Christianity easy. Yes it's a gift. And to receive it all it will cost you is your life. Simple as that.