The Role of Cutting Off the Hand
Last week in this space I referred you to Jon Bloom’s article, “Cut Off Your Hand”. I invite you to read it, if you haven’t. Then I have some further comments here:
In the context of Matthew 18, it’s clear that a) sin is really, really serious, because b) God is really, really worth not missing out on, due to sin. Heaven is at stake, yes, and that’s important because heaven is really, really good, because God is there, and God is really, really good. We must not miss this - we cut off our hand to gain our hand. We gouge out our eye to gain vivid, satisfying sight. If we hear Bloom’s or Jesus’ words as primitive, fundamentalist fire-and-brimstone talk, that’s because we’re not hearing everything. The God who pities us, and releases us from all our (infinite) debts (v. 27), is a God worth not losing.
So then, cutting off the hand is at once vital, and yet only a stop-gap measure, to buy us time and gain us distance from spiritual cataract-inducing sin, in order that we might see three things simultaneously. Perhaps the best way to describe it is if we see sin not as a point in time but as a stream. When we look at sin, we must look at the present, but then look upstream, and then downstream.
Upstream: do you want to know why you sin? I’ll tell you. You and I enthrone ourselves. I know this because I’ve seen children’s temper tantrums, the little sweetie, thrashing about in rage on the floor. It’s the desire to be enthroned, unfulfilled. That desire for enthronement doesn’t disappear as adults. We just clothe it more acceptably.
Downstream: So then, look at the results. The child receives a consequence, and so do we. The loss of a spouse’s trust; or a job; or God . . . Heaven. Sowing and reaping is real. The wise see it.
So what about the present? Think about what you say to yourself, about your life, and yourself. Much sin immediately follows thinking that is a) God-less, and is therefore self-condemning, hopeless, cynical, and atheistic, and b) does not consider the future, the downstream.
But with forgiveness, we also receive a new identity to wear: I am in Christ, and Jesus is generous. Therefore, I am forgiven . . . free . . . dead to sin . . . alive to God . . . loved, over all my sin . . . (Rom. 6:1-12). Victory comes from trusting God to be God, especially in the personal identity that we allow ourselves to walk in.