Monday, January 6, 2014

Drastic

Drastic.  That's the only word I can think of to describe the Sermon on the Mount. For example, the section where Jesus suggests cutting off body parts.  That's the sort of thing that gets one tossed in the loony bin. 

If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.(Matthew 5:29-30)


Seriously in what circumstance would a person cut off their hand?

Gangrene.  I guess if I had a wound in my hand that was poisoning my blood I might be willing to have it amputated to save my own life.  Or cancer.  Or a flesh-eating bacteria endangering not only myself but all those around me!  Ew. Get that nastiness out!

But frankly I just don't think of sin as all that serious.  My sin is minor.  When I grumble under my breath about being hijacked into being hospitable again, it's no big deal, right? Snarling at my poky child, rolling my eyes behind the back of my rejoicing sister, returning a complaint from my husband with a snide complaint of my own, these sins are everyday ones, aren't they? (Romans 12:9-20).  Those sins are mine.

I love grace.  I rejoice in the fact that I get to get up tomorrow and try again with all the righteousness that belongs to Jesus Christ and none of the sin that belongs to me (Romans 5: 20-21).  But can grace excuse me from Jesus' challenging words? Not at all (Romans 6:1-2).

We have mentioned before our hermeneutic (a theory of interpretation): Take hard questions about God's word back to Jesus for insight.  But Jesus was the giver of grace not the recipient, the sacrifice for sins not the sinner - how does his life illustrate how to apply the idea of severing body parts that lead us to sin?  Hebrews has the answer.  
  
For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin

Looking to our Savior, we see the most drastic action against sin ever taken.  God, having lived a sinless human life, took sin on his shoulders, carried it out of the city, and in his submission defeated sin and death forever.  (Hebrews 13:10-14) When we "consider" him, pouring out every drop of his blood to save us, plucking out our eye doesn't seem so insane.

But let's be honest. I'm right there with the people reading Hebrews for the first time.  I have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood!  When I fight sin it's more like a friendly sparring match. Sometimes I win, sometimes the sin wins.  We're pretty evenly matched and we'll meet again tomorrow, so you know, no worries.  But the Hebrew writer has something different in mind.  Steel cage grudge match time. 

We don't just battle against sin once either. I wish. Having our sins washed away does not give us a free, no-temptation pass for the rest of our lives (Romans 7). Instead the days, weeks and years after our salvation are marked by us learning how insidiously sin has infiltrated our entire selves.  The line from Amazing Grace that proclaims that grace taught us to fear makes perfect sense.  Until the light of grace illuminates our hearts we don't have any idea how terrified we should be because the depths of our sin is hidden from us! (If you are wondering about this I would urge you to prayerful consider Romans 7-8.  Especially Paul's admonition in the first half of chapter 8 that being full of the Spirit leads us to sin less and being focused on the flesh leads to increasing sin. The first 2 chapters of 1 John also shed light on this complex subject.)   

I don't think that the point of those verses from the Sermon on the Mount is amputation. I think the point is that sin is a drastic problem.  It's the kind of problem where Adam sinned and billions of people have died (Romans 5:12-19). Sin is the ultimate weapon of mass destruction.  

I don't know what it will take to get rid of this mess, but I'm done sparring. I'm taking off the gloves, and if it takes bloodshed, well so be it!  Sin is no longer my master and I won't be mastered by it again!  (Romans 6:14)


Helene

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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