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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Mark 9:38–50          

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

“For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” (NRSV)

In this passage Jesus warns his disciples—and us—that the legalism, hierarchy, and bureaucracy our egos are so adept at creating can get in the way of our compassion and love for others. There is a saying often given as guidance for being in a committed love relationship: “the goal is not to be right, the goal is to love well.”

The disciples are getting hung up on who is best, proper credentials, and protocol and Jesus is saying all that really matters is that we love well. If we love others unconditionally, we are with him. Then he asserts it is so important to have compassion and love for our neighbor that anything about us or within us that stands in the way of doing this needs to be cleared or eliminated at all costs. It’s that important! How often do we relinquish our responsibility of compassion for others with a rationale or a technicality for why we don’t need to get involved? Does that lack of compassion, where love is not the guiding principle, cause others to “stumble”?

This passage makes it painfully clear we will be held accountable for all the ways we didn’t love when we could have. If we want to be a follower of Christ we have to be all in with our compassion for others. 

Dear Jesus, quite frankly it’s a little scary how adamant you are that I make caring for the spiritual, psychological, and physical needs of others my utmost priority. Please give me the insight to know when I’m creating barriers and excuses to being the most generous and compassionate I can be to others. Give me the courage to love my neighbor well. Amen.

Written by Thomas Schemper, Director, Replogle Center for Counseling and Well-Being

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