#6. Cut it Out: Deformity before Conformity
…If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell…
Deformity before conformity…Matthew challenges us today with one of the hardest sayings of Jesus “cut it off lest it send you to hell!” I don’t know about anyone else but I am left wondering how literal this passage really is, I mean I don’t know of anyone going to these lengths to uphold their purity. It does however raise the question about values, ‘what do we consider a stumbling block? What is it that our hands get hold of that would cause us to need to cut one of them off?’
Working as a hospital chaplain my first assignment was to the renal ward, an acute 32 bed department that had a range of people with all sorts of renal related illnesses. Part of my role was to visit anyone having surgery the next day and offer them any support they might need. This one-day (in the beginning when I was pretty green) on the pre-op list was a young man who was due for an op and I thought it would be good to touch base with him. However as I met this man I realized that it wasn’t just any old procedure, he was actually having his leg removed due to a pretty serious infection. It was enormous and words cannot convey the deep despair I felt for the young man as he led me through his journey to this place. The smell from rotten flesh was unimaginable in the room and it is something I will never forget. His thought of loosing his leg was one of the most despairing pastoral encounters I have ever had, how could I comfort someone who would loose a part of their body? Either because of their actions or not?
I am left with the realization though that this passage is not to be taken lightly, it is the real deal and loosing a limb or even an eye is unimaginable.
What is it that causes us to stumble with our eyes? Is it the ideals of a better life sold to us by the flood of advertising that lines every aspect of our life? Is it the temptation of better relationship with another? Is it desire? Lust? Or is it that our eyes are wandering away from seeing the beauty around us to gazing into the dark places that lead us astray?
Our hands are not exempt from this stumbling, but does ask what are we doing with our hands? Are we creating for good?
Matthew again invites us to consider today who we are and what we are. Unlike the cartoon above I dare say it is not as simple as cutting bits off to get rid of the bits that cause us to stumble but rather Jesus is saying that we need to be as radical and as willing to go far to be true people of God. True in the sense of seeing righteousness, making peace, holding out hands to strangers and not compromising ourselves to the point of a need for deformity, for in this deformity the body of Christ suffers. The community we are called to needs us to be people of integrity and I don’t mean people without failings but rather gospel people who have values and ethics, things we live by and uphold, so that in our seeing and doing with our hands we are continually eyeing out the beauty of the creation to which we are participants.
During lent I am going to make a focus of each to look for the beauty in creation around me. I am going to use my hands to create for the better and I am going to find compassion and understanding for those who have no sight and are missing parts.
I wonder how are your eyes? What are they looking at?
I wonder how are your hands? What are they creating?
There is an opportunity today to look again and create something new, what will you discover?