Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Serious Choices

This past Sunday I preached a sermon about Jesus' words--"If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off." Here is an excerpt:

It was one of the most gripping news stories of 2003. In the beautiful but desolate mountains of southeastern Utah, a twenty-seven year-old mountain climber named Aron Ralston, made a desperate decision. An avid outdoors man, Aron was rock climbing one day when his right arm became trapped under a boulder, a boulder estimated to weigh at least eight hundred pounds. He saw immediately that he was in deep trouble. Unable to budge the rock at all, Aron took out his pocketknife and chipped away at the rock for 10 hours, managing to produce only a small handful of dust. Obviously this was not going to work. Days were passing. No one knew where he was. Even worse, his family and friends were used to his going off for days without contacting anyone, so they were not even looking for him. With his arm still wedged beneath this enormous boulder Aron Ralston recorded a video message to his parents telling them good-bye.

At the end of several days with no food or water, however, Aron made a remarkable choice. Aron Ralston decided to amputate his arm in order to save himself. And that’s exactly what he did, using only a pocket knife. What an amazing display of courage and determination. After he was finished, he applied a tourniquet to his arm and rappelled nearly 70 feet to the floor of the canyon. Then he hiked five miles downstream where he encountered some other hikers and was rescued. Aron Ralston made the obviously excruciating decision to amputate his right arm to save his life.[1]

Who can read this story without thinking of Jesus’ words from our lesson for today, “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 into hell”? What a stark declaration. “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.” Is this on the same level as those societies that cut off the hands of thieves? We view that as barbaric. This is not the Jesus we prefer. We like a soft Jesus, one who talks like a guru from the 1960s about peace and love and how we are all God’s children. This harsher, more strident Jesus offends our live-and-let-live sensibilities. Obviously Jesus did not mean literally that we are to cut off an offending appendage. Still, the words convey an earnestness that we ought to heed. “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.”

Sometimes in life we have to choose. Isn’t that what Jesus is saying? You really can’t have it all. Sometimes you have to choose. Aron Ralston certainly made a choice--sacrifice his arm in order to save his life. There are choices that must be made in life and those choices determine our destiny.

[1] Dave Burchett, Bring ‘Em Back Alive–A Healing Plan for Those Wounded by the Church (WaterBrook Press, Colorado Springs, CO, 2004).

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