Hating the Cancer

Hating the Cancer

If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell . . . Mark 9:43

I have a surgeon friend* who often uses cancer as an illustration for the destructive behavior in our lives. He says that while in residency, he was taught, As a surgeon, you must learn to hate the cancer more than you love the patient. In dealing with a deadly, metastatic disease, a surgeon must be ruthless, cutting out everything necessary to get rid of the cancer. If, in an effort to save an arm, the surgeon fails to get rid of all the cancer, he or she may have saved the arm, but if the cancer returns, he or she has killed the patient. It would be better ultimately, for the entire arm to be amputated, if that is what it takes to get rid of the cancer. Hate the cancer more than you love the patient.

This is strikingly similar to Jesus’ teaching in today’s passage. In addressing sin and temptation, he insisted three times that if something is causing spiritual destruction in our lives, we must do whatever it takes to ruthlessly cut it out. The image of sacrificing a hand, foot, or eye, in the passage, emphasizes that this may well be a painful, difficult endeavor.

Make no mistake. We’re responsible. Jesus doesn’t say that we’re left alone to accomplish this, but the passage makes it absolutely clear that we’re not to sit around, waiting for God to remove sin from our lives. If we’re living in destructive behavior, it’s our responsibility to do whatever it takes to stop.

The difficulty often, is simply in recognizing and admitting our metastatic disease. It’s easy to see in other’s lives, but we’re usually blind to our own sickness. It takes introspection and painful honesty to call out our gluttony, pride, greed, inappropriate relationships, lust, anger, and selfishness.

The daily challenge, as Christ taught, is to remove anything that distracts us from following him. Does this thing push me towards following myself or following Christ? If it causes us spiritual destruction, it’s a cancer and we must do whatever it takes to violently cut it out of our lives. We must learn to hate the cancer, doing whatever it takes to abandon it so we may pursue the life, faith, and recovery for which we were made.


*Thanks for the illustration Dr. Jon Mellema!

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