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Vol.  10  No. 2 February 2008  Page 10
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Mike BensonHave You Scheduled Surgery Yet?

ByMike Benson

    I would like to meet Aaron Ralston some day. He strikes me as a man of uncommon character. The avid outdoorsman was descending into the heart of Blue John Canyon near Moab, Utah recently when part of the rock wall he was climbing suddenly gave way. Ralston was not quick enough to evade the falling material, and a massive 800-pound boulder pinned his right arm into the side of the narrow chasm.

    For the better part of five days Ralston fought to keep himself alive and pondered different escape scenarios. He licked clean the wrappers from the four candy bars he had eaten on the way to the excursion. He consumed the two burritos he had packed for energy. He sipped from his water supply, but by the third day, his canteen was empty and he began to dehydrate. He tried chipping away at the rock with his pocket knife, but to no avail. He tried moving the boulder by rigging a series of pulleys with his climbing gear, but that effort failed too. Despite all of his impassioned attempts, Ralston exhausted his supplies and his escape seemed hopeless.

    Then Ralston considered the unthinkable. He realized that he would not survive unless he took drastic action, and so with little more than a resolute spirit, the Aspen mountaineer broke two bones in his wrist and then amputated the latter part of his right arm just below the elbow with the dull blade of his pocket knife. Before long he was free. After fashioning a tourniquet and administering first aid, Ralston managed to rappel down to the bottom of the canyon floor where he eventually hiked out [eight miles] to meet rescuers.

    That true-life story [http://hike.mountainzone.com/2003/news/html/030502_amputate-arm. html] serves as something of an illustration of what the Lord taught nearly two thousand years ago. He said, “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut if 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”* (Matthew 5:30 NKJV). Jesus was not promoting bodily mutilation. He certainly never meant for us to interpret His words in a literal sense and actually hack off our body parts. Rather, He was employing a figure of speech—a hyperbole, or exaggeration, in order to make a point. He was saying that we must “cut away” the source of our sinful desires; we must “amputate” those things that cause us to be tempted. I appreciate Tim Hall’s insight on this passage. He observes: “Dear Christian, without radical, corrective surgery, our spirits will die (cf. Matt. 10:39; Luke 13:3). Have you made an appointment with the Great Physician? Have you scheduled surgery?”

“[Ralston] surely must have considered the ramifications of cutting off his arm. Never again would he have the use of that limb. Life would be forever changed. He would need to learn new ways of doing the routine tasks of life, and some activities would have to be abandoned altogether. But the choice was clear: Did he want to live or not? Keeping the arm would mean death in the wilderness. To live would require leaving his arm behind. Do we want to live or not? Sometimes we have to make hard choices. Something that has been a part of us all our lives is keeping us from total devotion to God’s will. Can we find it within ourselves to “cut it off”? Or will we die in the wilderness of sin with our imperfect self intact?” [Tim Hall, “Cut It Off!” Forthright Magazine, http://forthright.antville.org/ stories/340415/; emphasis mine—mb].

*For more insight to this passage, go to http://www.oakhill.org/outlines.html—“Have You Scheduled Surgery?” (Matt. 5:27-30).

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