If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell…Mark 9:43-47
What Jesus says here is so extreme! What in the world is He talking about?
First, we have to understand that this is hyperbole. Jesus is exaggerating to make a point. He doesn’t want people to literally cut things off. Jesus is trying to drive home the point that pruning unhealthy parts of our life is necessary in a life of following Jesus because there is no middle ground (also see John 15:1-6).
Jesus is trying to convey the severity of this truth: if we haven’t surrendered a part of our life to the Kingdom fo God then it has been surrendered to hell. And the gangrene of hell spreads.
We tend to frame things as if there is some neutral ground that is available to us. Jesus makes clear that there isn’t. We tend to ask ourselves, “Should I give God control of this part of my life or not?” But that is a false choice. The true question is, “Should I give God control of this part of my life or continue to submit it to the enemy?”
We tend to ask ourselves, “Should I step out in faith or remain safe in my comfort zone?” But if the Lord has asked us to do something then the true question is, “Should I step out in faith or continue to feed and cultivate the weeds of unbelief in my life?”
There is a war between the kingdom of darkness and the Kingdom of God and we are the battle ground. This war has no DMZ. What isn’t actively surrendered to the Kingdom of God in our life is already being used by the kingdom of darkness for the enemy’s purposes of stealing, killing, and destroying. The apostle Paul described it this way:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground…Ephesians 6:10-13
This lie that there is some magical middle ground, some objective neutral territory, some spiritual Switzerland is one of the most prevalent lies swirling around the Church. Jesus knew this lie would be tempting to believe because no one wants to face open warfare. Appeasement is so alluring in the face of open conflict. And this is why Jesus used language that would shock us back into reality. He knew only this kind of hyperbole would be enough to break through our biases expose us to the truth.