42 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. [ 44 ] 45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. [ 46 ] 47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 where
“‘the worms that eat them do not die,
and the fire is not quenched.’
49 Everyone will be salted with fire.
50 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.” Mark 9:42-50

There are two ways in which to hinder a potential disciple from connecting with Jesus and living in vital union with Him. The disciples’ action against the man who was casting out demons is one way. There is an even more ungodly way of causing offense, by actively opposing the person whose faith is simple and incomplete.

Jesus regarded such action in such a serious light that He recommended that that person be drowned in the sea rather than be permitted to carry on. He made a radical statement that illustrated the way God views it when one harms the simple trust of a “little one” in Him. One should rather amputate an offending hand or foot or enucleate an offending eye than continue with such destructive behaviour that it lands one in hell.

What is the refining fire He is talking about here? Is He talking about offenses that bring painful emotions to  of the offender being exposed by the very offenses he causes other people? Perhaps it is both.

Jesus’ counsel is to be at peace. Peace within a person’s heart is the measure of confidence in God that doesn’t need to compete with anyone else, that doesn’t need to force one’s beliefs and convictions on others, that is completely secure in who he is and who God is. When peace like that is in control of a person’s heart, he can give other people room to be themselves, to make their own choices without interference, to influence people by the power of love and by accepting them fully just as they are in the full confidence that the Holy Spirit is at work in them.

The disciples had a long way to go in learning to let their own will and opinions go and to rest in their confidence in God and in His passion for the well-being – shalom – of all people, not only them.

Jesus’ use of salt as an illustration had a profound meaning for the disciples. Some of them were fishermen. They lived in a hot climate which made preserving their catches imperative. Without refrigeration, the only way was to pack the fish in salt. So, for them, salt was a precious and useful commodity. Like the salt that kept their fish from spoiling, they were to be like salt to one another. They were to nurture and build one another up by their attitudes and actions instead of destroying each other by competition and criticism.

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Luella Campbell

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