By Ronnie McBrayer
“If your hand causes you to sin,” Jesus said, “cut it off and throw it away.” That’s a pretty tough surgical intervention. No, I don’t think Jesus was endorsing personal dismemberment. Rather, he was emphasizing, in rather dramatic fashion, the need for life-saving, future-salvaging initiative. Better to lose an arm than lose your whole life. Better to throw away something you consider incredibly valuable, than to throw away your future.
An example, also in rather dramatic fashion: My brother was born with a cardiac condition that resulted in a catalogue of life-threatening illnesses. Finally, with little chance of recovery and his major organ systems in peril, cardiologists completed an open-heart surgery. But shortly after his surgery he acquired a staph infection in his right arm. The infection was unrelenting. So my parents had to make an impossible decision: Amputate the arm to save his life.
Was it a horrible thing for them to have to do? Yes. Was it unfair and unjust to have been put in that position? Yes. But it was the only real choice they had. It was better to lose the limb than to lose the life. My brother is alive and well today, now in his thirties with a family of his own, because of that brave decision. Likely, you will never face such a decision, but if you do, I pray you will do what has to be done. No, it probably won’t be a limb, but it might be an addiction, a dependence, a relationship, or a business arrangement; a place you go or an activity in which you engage. I’m not moralizing. There are just some people, places, and things that are no good for us. You will have to make the hard, brave decision to “cut off your arm,” if it means saving your future.
Aron Ralston, subject of the recent movie “127 hours,” knows a few things about finding such bravery. Speaking in the aftermath of his ordeal he said, “I left my hand behind in that canyon, but I gained my life.” Yes, these are strong words; difficult words to hear and practice. But just like the words of Jesus, these are words that lead to life, and your life is worth it.
Ronnie McBrayer is the author of “Leaving Religion, Following Jesus.” He writes and speaks about life, faith, and Christ-centered spirituality. Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.net.