The Severity of Sin
A broken wine glass

John: “Teacher, we saw a man driving out demons in your name, and we told him to stop because he’s not one of us.”
Jesus: “Don’t stop him. No one who does a miracle in My name can in the next moment say anything bad about Me. For whoever is not against us is for us. I tell you the Truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in My name because you belong to Christ, will certainly not lose his reward. And if anyone causes one of these little ones, who believe in Me, to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off, for it’s better to live maimed than with 2 hands and go into hell. If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off, for it’s better to be crippled than with 2 feet and be thrown into hell. If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out, for it’s better to enter the Kingdom of God with 1 eye than to have 2 eyes and be thrown into hell.” (Then he gives a brief description of Hell): “Where their worm (disease?) doesn’t die and where the fire is not quenched. Everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

After reading all this in Mark 9:38-50 about sin, I was wondering, “So why did Jesus say this here? It’s like it’s completely out of context, (which I know can’t be the case).” Then I read v. 50 (Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”).

Now notice:
:33 = arguing with one another
:38 = He’s not one of us
:31 = The Son of Man will be betrayed into the hands of men (those in conflict with Him/God)
This is a passage that focuses on the issues of conflict. In fact, there are 3 issues going on here:

  1. Conflict
  2. Severity of sin
  3. Introduction to acceptance of Gentile Christians

1) Conflict
Even today we’re not all on the same page. Look at all the Christian denominations in the world. Why do some churches take on the title “Non-Denominational”? Because either somebody was at conflict with their denomination and so split off and formed this one (as if to say, “fine, I’ll leave and start up my own church and do things the way I think it should be done!”), or because they don’t want to be recognized or associated with the “main denominations”. Either way, we’re all in conflict with one another, claiming Christ’s name. So the issue has become a loss of saltiness versus remaining salty.

Jesus is salty. He stands out among others. To belong to Jesus is to be salty, as Jesus is salty.

2) Severity of sin

  • Stop arguing with one another
  • Stop excommunicating others for not being in your group (later became a Gentile ministry).
  • Don’t cause anybody (under you? less along the way in their faith?) who believes in My name, to sin.
  • Then Jesus talks about the severity of sin:
    • It’s best for you to die than to cause another to sin
    • It’s best to cut off whatever causes you to sin.

The Old Testament says that any who…

  • Cut off from the people of God
  • Cut off from their community

Muslims take this literally in their countries, for if you’re caught stealing, they chop off your hand. But Jesus isn’t talking about capital punishment, but personal devotion to God. I also don’t think Jesus is telling us to cut off that which causes us to sin, for technically-speaking, our hand can’t steal something without the arm first moving it into position. And the arm can’t move into position with the intention of stealing something, nor the hand even grasp, without the mind telling it to do so. Plus, think of all the castrated people walking around today for committing sex outside of marriage (I bet you thought I was going to say “rape”), and think also about all the handicapped or crippled prisoners in our jails if we cut off their limbs. Instead, I believe that Jesus was using what’s called “exaggerated language” (or a hyperbole) to make His point. In other words, Jesus was using such language to explain the severity of sin.

Sin can actually keep one out of Heaven. Sin could also have one “thrown into Hell.” Did you know that?

There’s a problem of sin (and not just today, but always). Not only in the sense that it has always been around, but also in the sense of our indifference to it. Although people today do judge sin, it’s not as severe as Jesus did, and they judge it by putting it into levels or categories of severity. For example, some of my Catholic (and post-Catholic) friends still talk of “The 7 Deadly Sins”. Yet, the Law of Moses says that if you break ANY PART of the Law, then you’ve broken it ALL. The Bible also tells us that Jesus didn’t die just for the sake of those 7, but all sin, because (as Paul reminds us) the penalty for sin is death. Not just the famous 7, but ALL sins. So ALL/every sin is deadly.

Many also look to the 10 commandments and pick/choose which ones they want to follow. They may envy somebody else’s car or gadget, or fancy a Victoria’s Secret model or movie star, regardless if they (themselves or the subject) are married or not, and think it’s OK, since “It’s not like they murdered anyone”. Actually, if they wanted to judge severity by numbers on the list of 10, then they should look at the first 2 (or 3, if you’re Catholic): Serve only the Lord. Have no graven images or Idols; Keep the Sabbath Holy.

3) Introduction to acceptance of Gentile Christians
The man who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name was setting the example of authority in Christ. If he’s not against us, then he’s for us.

This is a foretaste of the Gentiles coming to Christ, for once the Gentiles realized that they could have part in Christ, many accepted Him – not the Jews, the Gentiles. But should they be rejected because they’re not Jews? No, for they’re for Christ…same team, see? Also, this man may not be of the 12, but he believed in Jesus’ name. And Jesus said that he may be different, but he’s also one of us. The 12 are not the only ones who made it in and who can call upon the authority of Christ’s name. There will be more…many more.

It must have been an ego-breaker for the 12, for all this time, they were talking about who among them is the greatest, and now suddenly Jesus shows them that they’re not so much an isolated “elite” group, but that many more will come who will continue their work.

I once believed that all denominations were evil, for Christ only intended for there to be His Church, and denominations are more of splits due to different opinions. But then a wise professor of mine challenged me with another look at it saying, “it’s not that denominations are sinful, but that they become sinful when they intentionally separate themselves from the others.”

One of many things we should all agree on is the severity of sin. Unfortunately, so many churches, Christians, and even non-believers today have become indifferent to sin. Jesus said that if they’re not for us, they’re against us, but if they’re not against us, they’re for us. But we can’t stop there. We must also recognize His views on the severity of sin. If something (or someone) causes you to sin, get rid of it. Separate yourself from it/them so you do not become separated from Christ instead.

Reflection:

  1. Why are these other exorcists such a problem for John? What other Christians or churches get you irked by the way they do things and/or claim? Why does it bother you so?
  2. What sacrifices have you made for your own spiritual well-being?
  3. Why have so many become indifferent to sin? Why is this dangerous?
  4. Any scientists in the group? What are the chemicals that make up salt? What happens if any of salt’s properties are lost? How potent is the salt in your spiritual life? What needs to change to regain the chemical properties of spiritual saltiness in your life?
  5. Pray for help with that.

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