“And if your right-hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” Matthew 5:30
A very familiar verse, I mean if you weren’t that privileged to have heard it in Sunday school then perhaps your preacher had mentioned it at least once in a quarter. There are a whole lot of brilliant commentaries concerning the subject, some describe the context as a hyperbole (mere exaggeration when it comes to cutting off your right hand), others hit on the metaphorical aspect of it ( I mean in relation to real-life situations, it makes sense to see it from an indirect perspective) few of us will call it a paradox (because the beginning of the verse is very absurd but after reading to the end it makes a lot of meaning and brings into mind deep thoughts). The stated scripture, however, establishes my subjective opinion of the verse with a medical analogy.
Imagine if Jesus literally meant cutting off your right hand, what picture may possibly come into mind? An amputee if my guess is right. For those of us who are still lost, Amputation is just the removal of a limb (or generally a part of the body) by trauma, medical illness or surgery. As a surgical measure, it is used to control pain or a disease process in the affected limb, such as malignancy or gangrene. Do you remember when Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are tired and weary and I will give you rest? (Matthew 11:28) Can you imagine people with severe injuries coming to this great Surgeon to seek his care and to be made whole? Yes some of us had very brutal injuries that the only option was amputation, thus literally cutting off the right hand.
We gave it all in the light of salvation. Holding on to 1 Corinthians 5:18, if a man be in Christ, he’s a new creation behold the old is gone, now is the new.Christ took our pain, sorrows, trauma, burden during the salvational surgery. Now I guess it’s appropriate to say some of us are ‘amputees’ in the Christian journey. After that has been established let’s get to the main theme.
So after amputation, one is made whole at best not a hundred percent comfortable but it’s better than staying with the affected or diseased limb right? So we make hay, we are free at last, renewed in Christ. Life goes on until we experience what is termed “the phantom pain”; an ongoing painful sensations that seem to be coming from the part of the limb that is no longer there. The limb is gone, but the pain is real. Yeah, I did cut off my right hand, I lost it all in the light of salvation, the hand is gone but the pain remains.
In 1551, French military surgeon Ambroise Paré recorded the first documentation of phantom limb pain when he reported that, “For the patients, long after the amputation is made, say that they still feel pain in the amputated part[i]“.
This pain is described as ongoing, a ‘phantom something’ that keeps on haunting , a more mental situation than physical. The hard truth is that the church nowadays fails to recognise that some Christians do need mental healing not just spiritual. The church is first a place where people in a society gathers, hence, there is first social gathering before the spiritual grooming and responsibilities can fully function. There are a lot of people in the church, amputees who struggle with pain from their past and do not require just spiritual healing but mental healing.
According to 1 Corinthians 5:18 we have been made a new creation, made whole, I mean the surgery was successful, but some of us still live with the pain that doesn’t require spiritual healing but a mental one. Some of us would be okay if we had people to talk things through, to acknowledge even what we are going through. Speaking on behalf of those with addictive behaviours, victims of rape, sexual addicts, gambling these injuries do not just heal spiritually, these habits leave pain even after being made whole. I mean how many times does preachers talk on the aftermath of addiction, life after a very corrosive and abusive relationship abuse. Well, we have a part to play, and it’s to recognise that after being made whole, there could still be pains, the scars still remain, and yours is to acknowledge first, stay positive, get people to talk it through, mental healing is very important in our spiritual journey. We need it as much as we need prayers.
The mental well-being of individuals is an aspect I wish the church can give attention to, this is because with that many are healed from the phantom pain.
[i] Bittar, R. G.; Otero, S.; Carter, H.; Aziz, T. Z. (2005). “Deep brain stimulation for phantom limb pain”. Journal of Clinical Neuroscience. 12 (4): 399–404.