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Hell or Heaven?


For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.
“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.
“For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” 
(Mark 9:41-50)
The Gospel lectionary reading for today has Jesus speaking quite a bit about hell. The word Jesus uses for it is "Gehenna" which was the name for the garbage heap outside the wall of Jerusalem. There was a perennial burn pile there. Jesus' main point seems to be that it is better to deal radically with sin in this life (cut off the hand or foot, pluck out the eye that causes you to stumble) rather than have to burn in hell forever with two hands, two feet, two eyes. N. T. Wright explains...
Virtually all readers agree that these commands are not to be taken literally. They refer to precious parts of one's personality--to aspects of one's full humanness--which may from time to time cause one to stumble, which may, that is, bring about one's ruin as a follower of Jesus. The immediate meaning seems to be that John and the others had better watch out in case their desire for honor when Jesus becomes king ... prevents them in fact from being his disciples at all. Anything that gets in the way must go.
In his novel, The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis has his character, George MacDonald, say:
The choice of every lost soul can be expressed in the words 'Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.' There is always something they insist on keeping, even at the price of misery. There is always something they prefer to joy--that is, to reality. We see it easily enough in a spoiled child that would sooner miss its play and its supper than say it was sorry and be friends.
What might be getting in the way of our following Jesus today? And if something is getting in the way, isn't it about time that we got rid of it--even if it hurts? 

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