The Time for Radical Action Is Now
by Alex Crain
"...if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live."
Aron Ralston's grisly experience during a climbing expedition illustrates a spiritual truth that makes me wince. If you aren't familiar with the story, take a look at his book, Between a Rock and a Hard Place (© 2004 Simon & Schuster), which is a detailed tell-all of his ordeal that occurred in late April 2003.
The experienced 27 year-old outdoorsman jumped into his truck that spring morning, bringing just enough food and water for the day. He took off by himself, driving 150 miles south of Salt Lake City to his favorite spot—a remote canyon area that used to be the hideout for wild-west outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
By afternoon, he was suspended seventy-five feet high off the canyon floor—climbing in a crevice that was just a few feet wide. It was a near perfect day. But then without warning, a boulder suddenly broke loose from the rock wall above him, hurtled down and trapped Ralston's right arm against the wall, completely crushing his hand. At that instant, Aron's hand—one of his greatest assets—had now become his greatest liability.
Five whole days passed as he tried various ways to free himself—all to no avail. His efforts to chip away at the boulder with a pocket knife only made a small dent. Rigging up a pulley system to move the boulder proved fruitless.
Finally, a moment of decisive clarity came. The thoughts came fast and furious: he could break his forearm, cut through the muscle with his dirty pocket knife, detach his arm, and use a piece of rope as a tourniquet.
Aron explains that he was driven by "some sort of autopilot" as he went about the gruesome task of amputating his own right arm just below the elbow. After he was finished, Aron lowered himself down and began trudging slowly in the direction of his truck. Later, he stumbled across two hikers who used a mobile phone to call in a rescue helicopter. Amputating his right arm was a radical act, but it was one that saved his life and reunited him with his family.
God calls us to deal with sin in our life in a way that is surprisingly similar. The Bible doesn't offer a laid-back, live-and-let-live approach at all. It's so radical, that we don't really like hearing about it or talking about it. Recall what Jesus said in Matthew 5:30, "If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell." While Jesus was not literally talking about physical amputation, He was saying that sin's deadly effects call for extreme measures. Even though it hurts, we must rid sin from our lives. In fact, our eternal destiny hinges on how we deal with sin.
Really? Well, why else would Jesus talk about hell in the same breath that He talks about how we are to deal with sin if He didn't mean to teach that our eternal destiny hangs in the balance? Clearly, it's a matter of preferring one destiny over the other. Outward behavior indicates what the heart primarily loves. If Aron Ralston had stayed there on the canyon wall with his hand pinned down by the boulder, he would have died. But because he was willing to kill his hand, his life was saved.
The same goes with us as we deal with sin. It really comes down to what we value most. Colossians 3:5 says, "Put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry." The world may tell us to laugh about sin, to lighten up about it, to tolerate it, and just let it be… that it's not idolatry; it's not an issue of worship. God says the opposite is true.
Intersecting Faith & Life: What has you pinned down? What are you trying to hang on to that is robbing you of the blessings of abundant life or, perhaps, preventing you from being restored to a brother or sister in Christ? What is keeping you from treasuring the Lord above all other things? Read the first two links below as you have time, but most of all pray for grace to heed God's radical call to amputate sin from your life.