Saturday, 3 March 2007

Who needs a hand?

On Wednesday, New Zealand cricketer Jacob Oram wasn't sure his finger, injured attempting to catch a skied ball during the recent series against Australia, would heal enough to allow him to play in the World Cup. If not, he was considering amputation:
"If it means cutting the finger off, if that's the worse-case scenario, if that's the last resort, I'll do that, there's no way I'm missing this."

I don't know whether I'd be willing to lose a finger if it could gain me a place in the World Cup. Some would say his priorities are crazy, but I suspect most of us can at least understand the sort of thinking that would lead to that desperation. Fingers are fairly small, some are less important than others, and Oram has a chance to do something very important in his thinking at least - play in a World Cup. He is willing to decide that the World Cup means more to him than his finger.

Jesus told his disciples to cut off their feet and hands and pluck out their eyes if they caused them to sin. I have heard a lot of discussion about whether Jesus is speaking figuratively or exaggerating, or whether we should take it literally. It is interesting that in the book of Mark, this instruction appears in chapter nine, just a couple of chapters after Jesus tells his disciples that a whole smorgasbord of evils come from within, out of men's hearts. Whatever you make of that, Jesus' explanation is quite straighforward: It is better to enter life/the kingdom of God than be physically whole and thrown into hell. He accompanies this with a vivid quote from Isaiah to illustrate what hell is like.

This isn't an exaggeration, it is a simple statement of priorities based on logic that is hard to argue against. Just as Oram believed it is better to play in the World Cup with nine fingers than to have ten and miss out, Jesus says eternal life is more important than things like hands, legs and eyes, let alone fingers and World Cups. As it turned out, Oram didn't have to go through with his decision and will play without amputation. Our practical response to Jesus may not be to get out the axe or call the surgeon, but it probably is fairly drastic. Does that put us off, or are we desperate for the kingdom of heaven too?


tdix said...

The West Coast Eagles' Daniel Chick (formerly of Hawthorn) cut off his finger to keep playing AFL.

Thanks for encouraging us to be desperate for the kingdom.

Jonathan said...

Hmmm.... I'm starting to remember that now. I think Oram's plan was a bit more drastic as his finger was likely to heal eventually anyway, and Chick's wasn't. Interestingly, both of them had problems with the ring finger on their left hand. Some Glenelg player had his chopped off too, and a Brumbies and Fiji rugby player Tawake had his right ring finger amputated hoping to play in his World Cup.

So it's not that unusual after all - and if sport is worth those sort of drastic measures, what is God's kingdom worth?