Sometimes in life, you just have to speak the truth. Nobody does this better than children. They will tell you point-blank to your face things you don’t want to hear, like your elbow wrinkles look funny, or that you are old. Case in point: we were asking the four-year-old twins what they want to be when they grow up. Ryan immediately said he wants to be a paleontologist…which he slowly and carefully pronounced PAY-LEEE-ON-TOL-OH-GIST. He will make an excellent one….he teaches me something new every day. Nora at first said she wanted to be a princess, then changed her mind for something ”more real.” She chose to be a unicorn.
I’m with her. I want to be a unicorn, too. So I said, ”Oh, that sounds great! Do you think Nana could be a unicorn when she grows up, too?” She instantly replied, ”Noooooo, Nana! You’re too old! You’re already growed up.”
Well, maybe it’s a good thing that Ryan wants to be a paleontologist, since apparently his Nana is a dinosaur.
Our passage from Mark today is in two parts. In the first, Jesus explains to his disciples that anyone who is for them cannot be against them, so a man who was exorcising demons in Jesus’ name was an ally:
Mark 9 (The Message)
38 John spoke up, “Teacher, we saw a man using your name to expel demons and we stopped him because he wasn’t in our group.”
39-41 Jesus wasn’t pleased. “Don’t stop him. No one can use my name to do something good and powerful, and in the next breath slam me. If he’s not an enemy, he’s an ally. Why, anyone by just giving you a cup of water in my name is on our side. Count on it that God will notice.
Then he goes on to deliver hard truths and harsh words against anyone who would be a stumbling block for any of God’s children to come to know Jesus. In essence, he says that if you mess with them you mess with me…and there will be consequences that you won’t survive:
42 “On the other hand, if you give one of these simple, childlike believers a hard time, bullying or taking advantage of their simple trust, you’ll soon wish you hadn’t. You’d be better off dropped in the middle of the lake with a millstone around your neck.
43-48 “If your hand or your foot gets in God’s way, chop it off and throw it away. You’re better off maimed or lame and alive than the proud owner of two hands and two feet, godless in a furnace of eternal fire. And if your eye distracts you from God, pull it out and throw it away. You’re better off one-eyed and alive than exercising your twenty-twenty vision from inside the fire of hell.
Yikes! Jesus is not playing. This invites us to stop and take an internal inventory. Is there anything in our attitude or behavior that might be a negative witness to the power of Jesus in our lives? People are watching. People are reading our posts. People are observing our actions. This passage is a call to wake up and be aware.
49-50 “Everyone’s going through a refining fire sooner or later, but you’ll be well-preserved, protected from the eternal flames. Be preservatives yourselves. Preserve the peace.”
Jesus’ call is clear: preserve the peace. Only by following him closely will we survive the refining fire. Remember that with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can be Christ’s ally in this world and not a stumbling block to his kingdom.
Do you need to clean up your act?