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As we approach the Manger in Bethlehem, we are so very familiar with the Story surrounding the Lord’s birth. And sometimes that very familiarity gets in the way of actually dealing with the Universe-Shaking Event of God becoming Flesh for our salvation. It is no mistake that He first comes to us as a helpless Child!

Throughout human history, the brokenness of humanity always descends into the harming of children. That’s always where Evil goes to because Evil wants to destroy Life. And Children represent both our ability as persons to mimic our Creator in bringing life into the world AND to shape within us the selfless caring for those who are weaker than us and need protection. Bearing children is meant to shape the character of Christ within us. That’s why the Church always calls children a blessing and why the evil one always wants to destroy children and make society asleep to the callous treatment of children.

From the sick grooming of children to sexualize them, to the abortion of children for the convenience of our own lives, to the indoctrination of our children in government schools meant to undermine parents and confuse our kids, to even the artificial “families” created to serve the deviance of our own passions, we live in a society that has become abusive to the “little ones.” This makes this morning’s warning from Christ all the more serious.

Look at our lesson today in Mark 9:42-50; 10:1:

The Lord said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. For every one will be salted with fire and every sacrifice will be salted with salt. Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again; and again, as his custom was, he taught them.

Jesus seems to reserve His most pointed and, frankly, scary language for those who cause “one of these little ones who believe in me to sin.” He sets a standard that it is better to “cut off” parts of yourself than to descend into the delusions of hell!

Strong language from the Lord and He uses the imagery of “fire” and “salt” to bring the point home to us.

“Fire” here refers to unending torments. But think about this for a minute. Can you imagine anything more horrible than having an unquenchable desire that always grows stronger but can never be satisfied? That “burning” desire, untamed and undisciplined, will burn you up! A life lived based on being enslaved by our desires can only be described as “hell.” And Jesus warns us to NEVER cause others to fall into that slavery by our own slavery to our passions! It would be better to be drowned in the sea than to leave a legacy that causes others to believe the way to happiness is indulging all our desires without discipline and wisdom. And when these passions are allowed to “burn” within us without the taming grace of a disciplined life, who gets hurt by this the most? The children!

“Salt” here refers to the seasoning and preserving nature of this very valuable commodity in Jesus’ day. Isn’t it interesting how He says that everyone, you and me included, will be “salted” with fire? Our lives are very much given flavor and preserved by the myriad of talents and abilities and creativities that all of us possess. But the “salt” loses its purpose when all of these abilities and talents and desires are untamed, undeveloped, and undisciplined by wisdom. Jesus tells us to “have salt” within ourselves and be at peace! And who most benefits from this “salty” life that flows from two parents focused on disciplined Faith? The children!

Today, is your life burning up with ever-growing desires that are unsalted by wisdom and discipline? Our Orthodox Faith invites us to communion with Christ that both disciplines our desires AND seasons our lives with the true purpose of our gifts. Our Lord invites us to love the children enough to say “no” to burning passions, and “yes” to being Orthodox on Purpose!

P.S. O Lord, You said “Suffer the little children to come unto Me” and You take the treatment of children as a clear sign of our own spiritual health and freedom. When the children are made to suffer because of our selfishness, You warn us this is the deepest depravity and the gravest of dangers to ourselves and our society. Please save us, O Lord. And protect the weak and helpless. Give us the grace to partner with You in loving, and protecting our children! Amen!

A Special Message from Fr. Barnabas: Every day we provide these short devotionals to help you turn away from darkness and to Christ. With Christmas being next Sunday, we are reaching out to you for help. That’s why we ask for your help at this time of year. Would you consider an end-of-the-year gift to Faith Encouraged Ministries? You can give online by clicking the image below!

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