in my last post, i mentioned mark 9:42-50. this is a passage that should give pause to those who insist that every word in the bible must be taken literally. certainly, no one would suggest that jesus is advocating chopping off one's hands or feet, plucking out one's eyes, or deliberately drowning oneself. the passage begins with a verse about "causing one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble." it would seem that this verse properly belongs in mark 10:13-16, where jesus tells the disciples not to turn away children who have been brought to him for blessing. the passage (mark 9:38-41) that proceeds the closing section of mark 9 is one in which jesus tells the disciples not to prevent others outside their group who may be healing in jesus' name from claiming the name of jesus. the connection between the two is tenuous at best.
the closing verses of mark 9 seem to be telling us that things that are not evil in and of themselves may be used for evil if we are not careful. we fall into habits that are counterproductive or that consume too much of our time; we allow attachments to things that are impermanent to distract us from what is really important; we mistakenly believe that life is ours to control. perhaps jesus is suggesting that we examine ourselves and get rid of those encumbrances that prevent us from rightfully claiming to be followers of jesus.
jesus concludes by admonishing the disciples to "have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other." this may be the connection between mark 9:38-41 and mark 9:42-49: jesus may be telling the disciples that their desire to claim jesus as theirs exclusively, to become a closed circle, is offensive; the disciples should have a view that is more inclusive and outward looking, salting society with the flavor of kindness and connectedness that brings peace to all, not just to an inner circle of the most devoted followers. therefore, they must cast away their selfish claim to jesus by ridding themselves of the figurative hands, feet, and eyes that prevent them from functioning in accord with jesus' teachings.
my prayer for myself and you today is that we constantly examine our lives to remove those things that keep us from living the life of love and acceptance that jesus taught, so that we become the salt that flavors the whole of life, thereby living in "peace with each other." shalom.