One of the remarkable things about Jesus is His compassion towards us revealed in how He deals honestly with us as we actually are and what it is we actually need to do to respond to it. In addition to the fact of our desperate need for the salvation that only God can give us through faith in Jesus Christ, we are given compelling reasons to make what may seem like radical life choices, radical only if we disregard what is truly at stake.
For example, when Jesus speaks about sin, He lays out for us a dramatic claim that we are indeed accountable for what we do, no matter how it comes about that we do it. In Mark 9:42-48, Jesus speaks to the effect that our lives have on others and how we’re answerable to the Lord for it. When that effect leads to the sinful choices of others who look up to us because of sinful choices we make and claims we state, we must give account to God Himself.
“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 around his neck and he were thrown into the sea” (Mark 9:42 ESV). Indeed! That may seem a bit extreme to us today since, in our estimation, most sin falls into the “little sin” category and is therefore negligible. But if we understood that when a person departs from abiding in a relationship with a holy God through Christ, no matter how “small” a sin may seem, he or she sets in motion an endless array of departures from God that bring with them the tragic consequences of broken relationship with Him.
The Bible truthfully testifies to us that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Death manifests itself in countless ways in the evil we see today from broken families to rioting mobs, from killing unborn babies to trafficking of people as though they were nothing more than livestock, from the failure to speak the truth to one another in small things to media outlets that no one can trust. The apparition of death appears every time we see fear, hate, bitterness, loneliness, addiction, and suicide.
And there is, of course, the ultimate and consummate expression of death in the eternal judgement that awaits anyone who is not in Christ (see Revelation 20:11-15).
Where sin leads us is such a grave matter that Jesus says, “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, to the unquenchable fire. 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. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear 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” (Mark 9:43-47 ESV).
Is Jesus telling you to maim yourself so you can have some sort of spiritual reward? No, but He is pointing out the enormous result of not dealing with sin in this life. Cutting off your hands and feet, and tearing out your eye will not likely remove your inclination to sin, but perhaps you should thoughtfully consider cutting off relationships with people who pressure you, mislead you, or exploit you resulting in your choosing things contrary to God’s Word and will. You should tear yourself away from situations, devices, and opportunities to slip and slide into sinful actions. You should instead choose to embrace life.
Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 25 years, is the author of Led by Grace, The Fairy Tale Parables, Crimson Harvest, and A Heart at Home with God. He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed are the work of the author.