Post by Pastor Stephen
How do you make something accessible? Wheel-chair ramps, nut-free zones, and air conditioning all come to mind. Ramps grant access to buildings when steps get in the way. Nut free zones grant access to learning for kids when allergies prevent normal life. Air conditioning makes the South accessible for most all of us, and when it goes out in a building or our cars… we seek cooler places.
The teachings of our God are made accessible in a couple of ways in these texts. Listen to James 5:13-20, where James lifts up different ways to do faith: prayer, lament, song, anointing. He is making faith accessible by giving guidance about ways to engage in different circumstances of life.
Jesus in Mark (Mark 9:38-50), and Moses in Numbers (Numbers 11), are glad when God works through those outside the inner circle. In many ways Jesus and Moses affirm and encourage God’s working through everyone, not just the people who can make it up the steps to the inner circle.
Then Jesus’ teaching in Mark 9:38-50 is in part a call to make this faith accessible. On the one hand he lays out some tangible ways for us to live the faith, while also placing the emphasis on helping others to live the faith too. This is a call for us to make faith accessible… or at least heed the teaching of Jesus because he makes it pretty clear that we’re not to put stumbling blocks in front of anyone.
Do note that the church does not endorse cutting off either hands and feet, and we reject gouging out eyes. I do not believe that Jesus would endorse this either since he gave us those hands and feet and eyes for the sake of his kingdom work of welcoming children and all those in need (see Jesus’ teaching immediately before this Sunday’s). So, don’t cut your hand off, but take the warning seriously that you need to stop harming other people through your sin with your hand/foot/eye.
Our friends at Sundays and Seasons have a great reflection on cutting off body parts:
In worship, and in day-to-day life, confession is frequently followed immediately with a request for forgiveness—to the degree that we may think the point of confession is simply getting the forgiveness. This approach becomes its own sin when the feelings/needs of the one who committed the sin take precedence over the needs of the one who was wronged. (“I need you to forgive me so I’ll feel better.”) Jesus’ language about cutting off one’s hand if it causes one to stumble is startling because there is no provision for “Just tell God you’re sorry and things will go back to the way they were.” The goal in this teaching is not taking care of the desire of the sinner to be forgiven, but the need of the one wronged to not be sinned against any more. After all, this is the only way that healing is possible for both sinner and the one sinned against.
When you stop hurting others, it’s a great first step for you in living our faith; and it goes a long way to making the faith accessible to those whom you formerly hurt.