It’s been a month since I moved on from In-N-Out and began investing more time in writing. While I certainly would have liked to have been more productive so, my primary hurdle has been insecurity.
It is no surprise that writing unveils the soul, and forces you to bare both your teeth and your heart with every word. Whether the details of your personal life are publicized or not, it forces you to examine yourself.
Stress inevitably follows this high level of self-scrutiny. I have a difficult time not flooring it when I do pretty much anything, and as my ears begin to bleed and each tendon in my body hyperextends, it’s difficult to hear God shouting at me to slow down. He would like to see my body hold up. He wants me to let my foot off, even just a little bit for now, because He knows me all too well, and He knows, eventually, that I’ll fall apart if I don’t.
It appears that Jesus is concerned about personal health as well as the spiritual condition. It’s no mystery that the following situations can have adverse effects on both. Jesus knows this, and suggests resorting to extreme measures to address it. Take a look:
Condition: Holding a grudge
Result: Bitterness, rage, incorrect worship
Resolution: Forgiveness, then worship
You may as well be swallowing vinegar every five minutes and wearing forty Mr. T gold chains all day long. It hurts yourself plenty when you can’t forgive a man, but did you know it’s not possible to worship God correctly when you’re still bitter? Jesus insists that we leave our gift at the altar — in other words, stop what you’re doing (even if you’re in the middle of a church service) and take care of business.
Condition: Desire for others besides your spouse
Result: Impure heart, unfaithfulness
Resolution: Extreme measures
This should be obvious, but if you’ve spent any time in an office with multiple genders represented, it doesn’t take long to observe how often it’s usually forgotten. It’s like having a habit of chewing on C-4 — it’s going to explode in your face, eventually. Jesus suggests a couple of hyperboles to remove yourself from this sin (or any others). To compound the illustration, know that people in that society were “shamed” when they were missing a hand or an eye. The more shameful wardrobe for them, in this case, is sin.
Condition: Being a control freak
Result: Worship of idols, loss of control, commitment issues
Resolution: Submission to God, keep your promises
This world is extremely dynamic — six billion people here, and they are all constantly manipulating their surroundings. We want something to hold onto. Our natural desire is to pursue God, but when that doesn’t “work”, we hold onto anything we can around us. The Jews of Jesus’ day did the same thing, swearing oaths on objects and temporary concepts. Why? Because we want control of something. Stand on the Lord instead, and you’ll be surprised how much easier it is to keep your commitments as well.
Condition: Unrelenting hatred
Result: No distinction from others, favoritism, lack of love
Resolution: Love for enemies, prayer, recognition of universal suffering
Distinct from unforgiveness, hatred doesn’t necessarily gnaw at yourself, but it’s contagious and destroys your environment, which could eventually impact you. Jesus says in John that the best way to identify a disciple of Jesus Christ is by how we love. If you’re being a jerk, you don’t look any different from everyone else, and that problematic if you’re attempting to be a “light of the world” and actually convince people that there’s something to being a Christian. That guy you can’t stand might just be responding to suffering, which everyone can identify with. The answer is always love.
Mark 7:14-23: When He had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear Me, everyone, and understand: There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!”
When He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. So He said to them, “Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?” And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”
I don’t agree with the backdrop doctrine of the Dalai Lama, but this is still powerful: