“If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off…It is better to enter your life maimed, rather having two hands or two feet to be cast into the everlasting fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out…..rather than having two eyes be cast into hell fire.”  Matthew 18: 8,9

“I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven…..So My Heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brothers trespasses”  Matthew 18:22,35

I must freely admit that the first passage referenced above has always challenged me in certain respects.  First, upon reading it several times, I wondered what should my response truly be?  For yes I do sin and normally either singularly or in combination my eye(s) or hands or feet are involved in the sin.  Thus, based on Jesus Christ’s admonition, should I be pulling out a saw and or doing some plucking?  Okay, I will also freely admit that I am weak in that department but surely there are others of stronger faith, who also admit that they sin yet they remain with all their appendages and sight.  This is also a verse that is often thrown against me from unbelievers who question what I believe in and the strength of that belief.  What kind of Loving God would ask this of His creation and why don’t you, professing to be one of His, follow through and actually do what He commands?

Some might argue that Jesus is speaking figuratively here like when he speaks to the crowds about the necessity of eating His flesh and drinking His blood.  We know from the instigation of the sacrament at the final supper of Jesus and His disciples, that Jesus was using the bread and the wine as symbols of His Body and Blood.  Yet we find no later connection to a sacrament or other explanation for Jesus very pointed, graphic advice He gives above.

Well then, Jesus just didn’t really mean it.  He was exaggerating, speaking in hyperbole to dramatize the dire nature of sin and the sacrificial nature of ridding ourselves of it.  And while it is true that Jesus Christ spoke in parables, this does not fit into that category and I have always found Jesus to speak with precision in teaching us His great truths.  So does that mean, being a sinner, I need to be sharpening some implements?  By the Grace of the Holy Spirit, a different answer came which also connected some powerful aspects of Matthew Chapter 18 together.

First, I had always, and now mistakenly I believe, looked at Jesus admonition about removal of hands, feet and/or eyes and the story of forgiveness as two separate but equally powerful teachings by Jesus in this chapter.  As I just stated I now believe that was an error and these two concepts are woven deeply, mercifully and wonderfully together.  Again in error, what I concentrated on was the word “sin” and again the body parts aspect, discounting the rest.  Yet, by Grace now what equally jumps out at me is the consequence; to be thrown and endure, eternal hell fire.  Again, going back to Jesus Christ’s teachings; why would that happen, what sin leads us there?  The sin that Jesus Christ is speaking of is the sin of rejecting Jesus as the Christ, the One True Son of God and/or rejecting our Heavenly Father altogether.  You see, dear Sisters and Brothers, if there is something of this world that I see, if there is something that I can reach out and grasp, if there is a path that I choose to follow, that causes me to reject Jesus Christ as God’s Son, that causes me to claim, there is no God; then I am headed to eternal damnation.  Thus, very much so, if I can not turn my gaze from that, then I should no longer have the means of seeing.  If I can not let go of that sin of rejection, then I must cut off that which tries to hold on to it or walk along the path of godlessness!  Jesus Christ is perfectly and mercifully correct; how foolish is it to spend a short life time, seemingly (though we can never be truly whole without God) whole in this short life to spend eternity in horrible suffering.

Well if that’s the case, if I believe in God then I’m free to sin as much as I want?  Absolutely not!  Unrepentant sin will ultimately lead to our rejection of Jesus Christ.  Yet, here in this same chapter; Matthew 18, Jesus Christ gives us a sense of our Merciful Heavenly Father who loves us.  Since Jesus is speaking of sin, Peter must have some grievance toward someone that Peter is tired of continuing to forgive that person for.  So he asks Jesus, just how many times should he forgive a sin committed against him; as many as seven times.  One can imagine Jesus letting out a little chuckle as He answers Peter saying:  seven times??? try seventy times seven times.  Then Jesus goes to use a parable saying that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a King who has a servant that has a great debt owed to the King which the King desires to have paid up.  The servant cannot repay the debt and pleads for mercy to which the King mercifully and generously forgives the entire debt.  The connection here is we are the servants who owe this great debt, which is our sins, to our Heavenly Father.  It is when we earnestly, honestly humble ourselves and repent, acknowledging the Heavenly Father’s righteousness and calling upon the grace-filled sacrifice of Jesus Christ to wash away our sins, that our sins are forgiven; without the cost of sacrificing a hand, foot or eye!

That is how these two wonderful pieces of Matthew 18 come together to make a marvelously merciful whole.  Whatever is blocking our way to Jesus Christ, we must utterly and completely remove from our life at this moment; regardless of what impact it has on this life or risk the certain eternal separation from Christ and Our Heavenly Father.  Yet in humility, acknowledging our falleness, we can come to Our Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus Christ and repent of our sins, not counting each repentance as some eternal spiritual check mark on a balance sheet where we will have used up all the mercy our Heavenly Father has towards us.  Jesus Christ took upon Himself; all of our sins and then sacrificed Himself and paid our price, once and for all, that in believing in Him we may receive eternal life.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father; we are so thankful that You have provided both the eternal, grace-filled beyond measure, sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our personal, eternal redemption, but that You, in Your wisdom, have also given us Your Word to teach us about Your redemptive plan.  Pour out Your Strength that we might be able to cast any and all things aside, no matter how seemingly dear or important to us, that might cause us to reject You or Your Son.  Humble us that we would come into your presence in true repentance for our sins and receive Your boundless mercy and forgiveness poured out through the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  That in coming  to You and proclaiming Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Savior and sincerely repenting of our sins, we might live a life of praise and glory to Your Most Holy Name.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

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