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.”
This exorcism story brings to my mind the sort of “battle of denominations” we tend to get into. Methodists believe differently than Baptists, who believe differently than Catholics, who believe differently than Lutherans, etc. And we’re always trying to shut the other group up, or prove how our beliefs are more right, or other silly things. But the truth of the matter is that we’re all followers of Jesus, and we’re all on the same team. If we truly believe the Gospel Message in our hearts, maybe our beliefs on Baptism or Predestination don’t matter as much. Because if we’re honestly doing things in Jesus’s name, God is going to bless our works, even if we aren’t following the “right” group. At least, that’s what I get out of this story.
The stumbling block is a little more straight forward. If something is causing you to sin, get rid of it. But for such a simple instruction, it sure is hard to actually do. But Jesus makes it clear, everything is at risk here. It might be hard to give up alcohol (for example), but won’t Hell be harder? The extra effort is worth it.
Actually, now that I think about it, this passage is a little confusing. Sin no longer sends us to Hell because of Christ’s sacrifice. Our sins are forgiven. I suppose this is a reminder that forgiveness is not a free pass to sin as much as you want. We should still be making efforts to remove sin from our lives. If the Gospel Message has really changed our lives and hearts, we aught to be wanting to change. And if we want to change, we want to remove those stumbling blocks, right?
Boy, does my heart still have a lot of changing to do! I’m not even kind of there yet.