By guest writer, Ellen Ceely
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” - Mark 9:42-50
Do you feel at peace with those around you? Are you at peace with your family, friends, and neighbors? What about your fellow believers?
Jesus has just rebuked John for telling those who don’t follow them that they can’t use Jesus’s name to cast out demons. It’s easy to separate that event from these verses because every Bible in my home separates them by a title. But these words belong with Jesus’s response to John. Rather than silencing and scaring away those people John views as outsiders because they’re not a part of the “inside crowd,” Jesus would have him mind his own business. If they are fighting for Christ, they are not to be treated as enemies but as brothers. Even the smallest deed, like a drink of water, will be rewarded.
If we take yesterday’s passage and join it with today’s, we have context for who “these little ones” are. They are the people John wants to kick out. The little ones who believe in Jesus are not to be messed with. They’re to be left to live out their faith in all the ways that glorify God, whether that’s casting out demons or giving water to weary believers. Jesus goes on to compare what John did to putting a stumbling block in front of them and damaging their faith in him. He even says that it would be better for John to tie a millstone around his own neck and be thrown into the sea than to cause “these little ones” to stumble!
The rest of our verses today continue with a similar message: if your hand, foot, or eye are going to cause you or anyone else to stumble in their faith in Jesus, then you need to cut it out! In other words: don’t focus on whether these baby believers who aren’t part of the “inside crowd” are preaching the way you think they should. Focus on your own sinful heart and actions, make sure you’re in line with who I am and what I teach, and be at peace with your fellow believers.
Jesus’s words are hard, but he says them out of mercy and pity. He wants to protect these vulnerable believers that John wanted to stop. He also wants to protect John from his own prideful attitude because he knows where that pride can lead. Sometimes we think of mercy and pity as gentle emotions or actions. But they always carry with them the gift of truth.
How has God spoken to you through these verses in Mark? Is there a specific person or group of people that come to mind as “outsiders” or as those you need to work to be at peace with? Ask God for wisdom on how to obey his call for you to be at peace with your fellow believers. We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
In our six-week small group Bible study on the book of 1 John, you are invited to live and celebrate true life in Christ. Throughout his first letter, John wrestles with the assurance of salvation. How do we know that we are genuine Christians, and how can we recognize authentic faith in others? The Apostle John taught that you can enjoy full assurance through believing in the incarnate Son of God, walking in the light of obedience, and loving God and his children. Embark on this study with us today!
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