“Everyone will be seasoned with fire.” – Mark 10:49
It was kids day at church. The one day where the entire kid’s ministry invades grown-up church and they sing with abandon and pray cute prayers and garner dozens of exclamations from the crowd: awww, so cute!
The message was on childlike faith and the intrinsic value that Jesus acknowledged in all humans, even the smallest, most inconsequential of our species: the babies.
In Mark 9, the story goes that the disciples were arguing over who might be the greatest in the upcoming kingdom of Jesus. They had already been watching each other, keeping score and comparing. Did Jesus favor one over the other? Who demonstrated the greatest leadership ability? Who from their rag-tag group seemed most qualified to be considered a Head of State?
They murmured. They bickered. They reasoned until the differences of opinion clashed and Jesus’ spirit heard the discord.
“What were you arguing about?”
A simple, honest question.
The silence of their response was telling.
And then Jesus uses a small child as the object of how to be holy, how to be great in the kingdom of the Messiah, this much anticipated kingdom that the disciples were learning resembled nothing they had seen or imagined. Education, family lineage, privilege, training, wealth — it all meant nothing in this kingdom.
Instead, a child was the measure. A dusty, dependent, silly, shy child. No skills, no insights, no value. Just the recipient of the grace that gave him life and the container of an open, trusting heart.
Jesus warned against turning away anyone that might come to him, regardless of age, race or social standing. Then he warned against the sin that is as much a part of us as our two hands, our two eyes.
We are tainted with sin, unable to divide ourselves from it so much that he used hyperbole to prove his point: better to go into eternity maimed for the sake of sacrificing sin than to try to meet God justifying yourselves.
Hard truth spoken into the ears of stubborn men and simple children alike.
What do we do with this problem that is so pervasive that we can’t separate ourselves from it without mutilation?
Then the strange sentence: Everyone will be seasoned with fire.
As usual, I looked at my Bible and said, “Huh?”
Sometimes I am the disciples — dense. I go away stumped.
I asked God to show me meaning. This is where he led:
How do I resist falling into pride? How do I say “no” to my propensity to judge? And worse, how do I escape my own ambivalence? Why do we write people off so quickly when we know that Christ stopped for the beggars, the sick and smelly, the prostitutes who bore the stench of sin, the downtrodden, the deformed, the demon-possessed, the desperate, the bleeding, the destitute?
And I thought of Isaiah, that prophet who volunteered: Here I am, send me.
His tongue was touched with the coal of Heaven’s holiness.
It’s the holiness of God, come to us in the innocent infant, the person of Jesus Christ, He whose truth is searing.
Painful. It challenges our every thought, our every inclination.
The fire is the person of Christ.
The fire is the testing that comes when we follow him.
The fire is the necessary heat that kills the disease of sin from the sinews of our souls.
We are all awash in the stench of the sickness of sin. Really. I know it’s hard to take, hard to accept.
We are antiseptic with running water and soap and flush toilets and clean clothes and vacuums. We clean the cup on the outside, like the religious leaders whom Christ chastised.
What are we inside?
Who are we inside?
Are we the innocent child or the arguing disciple?
Will we self-mutilate with the the programs and paradigms of this world or will we be presented whole, trusting, completely dependent on Christ, the husband of our souls?
This is the season of fire, the salting of our hearts. Jesus ended his teaching moment with this:
“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”
I daresay he looked directly at the squabbling disciples, the ones who’d walked miles with the Creator of All and bickered over positions and power.
Have salt – the holy fire that purifies — in yourselves and be at peace with each other.
Be at peace.
Lay down your weapons. Cease the fire of words. Stop slinging past mistakes at one another.
Don’t compare yourselves to one another.
Stop playing around and playing favorites, making alliances and criticisms.
Be at peace and enter into a new, different way of living.
In so doing, you will really live.
This is posted in The Nester’s 31 days community (and with ann, here) . There, many people are blogging about 31 days to “_____”. I have no theme, just a verse, a word, a truth from scripture to use as a springboard to abundant life. The Bible tells us that all scripture is useful for equipping us to engage life and one another, so that’s my theme, I guess. Thanks for reading, for listening, for coming back again. You bless me.