Cut your hands off? Scandal! — Matthew 18:7–14

Humility and trust — part 2

40 blogs of Lent — day 36

I have been disabled for the last 15 years. Uneven flooring is my bane. Of course with my crutches I have learned to be pretty good over any terrain, even the cobbles in historic cities, which can be testing. Anything that causes my ankle to twist is best avoided. Without sticks I can manage a level floor for a short time, (up to half an hour on a good day,) but I know a lot about stumbling,

A worn, uneven set of stairs dug into a steep incline.
Photo by Maria Orlova on Pexels.com

“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.[d] 12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

Matthew 18:7–14 ESV UK

We are supposed to be stepping stones, not stumbling blocks. We are supposed to facilitate the way for others to come to God, not obstacles in their way. The translation I am using in this section, the English Standard Version (ESV) translates the Greek for stumbling block as sin. But this is now not about causing children, the weakest in society to stumble, it is about the world. Do we get in the way of anybody coming to Jesus?

That is what the previous few verses said when Jesus put a child in front of Jesus and said, “This is what greatness looks like. Now the context changes but the focus is the same, this is about being humble and not putting stumbling blocks in the way of others. Do not prevent people from coming to Jesus and do not stop anyone, but especially the lowest in society, from reaching their full potential.

My arthritic right foot is something that causes me to stumble. I also own an ask, When Jesus said, “If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire,” is he saying that I should literally take the axe to the foot? After all the Greek says if your hand or foot causes you to stumble… the word for stumble is skandalizo, from which we get the English word scandal. There’s one for those who say that the Bible should always be taken literally.

But no, the foot is safe from the axe. Not just because the axe is not a very good axe, it was found very blunt in the cellar when we moved into the house, and now it has been sharpened it is still not very effective. The foot is safe because the subject of the passage is still about humility rather than dismemberment. The context, shown from the previous passage about a child being the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven and by verse 14, after the dismemberment verses, is about causing other people to stumble. If we do we can even end up despising them.

God’s love goes so far as to risk everything for even the least of us. For a shepherd with 100 sheep to leave 99 on the hillside to seek one that has strayed would be foolish, risking his own life, bur this is what God is like willing to risk everything for each one of us. It is not the will of God that any of us, even the least important of us, should perish.

Bear with me, what follows is relevant to the subject.

There is a debate going on on Twitter as I start to draft this, On 16th March Rev Steve Chalke, @SteveChalke, the founder of Oasis, and also Oasis, @OasisWaterloo, tweeted about conversion therapy to change the sexual inclination of LGBT+ people and how it is wrong, and asking people to write to their MP to support legislation to ban conversion therapy. This could have been in reply to the Evangelical Alliance’s tweet on the same day, @EAUKnews, that banning conversion therapy, “could pose a direct threat to religious liberty and restrict personal freedoms.” The following day @EAUKnews tweeted a link to a “Q&A” about conversion therapy.

My take on this is that we are not to put objects in the way of people coming to Jesus, and that the passage says we have to accept the weakest. I find it shameful as an Evangelical Christian to see the Evangelical Alliance which used to be an umbrella organisation for the diversity of views on Christianity now dictating the path that Evangelicals should now be taking at a time when Evangelical Christians in the UK are increasingly oppose the dangerous and abusive practice of conversion therapy, and in a way that is little short of a hate crime.

The Apostle Paul said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) He was addressing the attitudes of his day, the list is not exclusive, If he were writing today I can imagine there is neither black nor white, there is neither straight nor LGBT+, there is no neuro-divergent and neuro-typical.

I have autism, I know about how it feels when the mask I wear slips and Christians insist that I should behave in a way that isn’t me. It has even been suggested that my autism is a demon. It was done softly so I agreed to let them pray for deliverance, bit there was, of course, nothing there. This is abusive and must stop, but I hear from LGBT+ people that they can be treated far worse than this. There is abuse happening in the churches, people with power are using their power to abuse because they do not know how to become like the lowest, the powerless and like children.


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