"Did he really just say that?"
I am assuming I wouldn’t be the only one in the crowd asking that. Jesus had just made a bold statement, one of many on the day:
“If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” -Matthew 5:29-30
Truth is, Jesus was the only one speaking about sin like this because he was the only one who truly understood the horrible consequences of it. He knew just how horrible the eternal punishment was for the temporal “joy” of indulging sin. I’m willing to bet that many people that day actually began to understand the gravity of sin. I’m confident many more people went about their day afterwards taking the common attitude I see today in myself and around me:
“Yes, sin is bad, but Jesus is just a little extreme. A little here, a little there, under control, is not what he’s talking about. Sure, if I was going to kill someone I should cut off my hand, but my thing isn’t like that.”
Your thing is that bad. My things are that bad. Sin is bad. Yes, these statements are the most painfully obvious sentences I have ever written.
We just don’t hate sin like we should (in ourselves, hating sin in others is a topic for another day. We’re normally pretty good at that anyways.) Do we forget about verses like this?
“Then when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” James 1:15
A pastor and friend of mine once said that Christians struggle so mightily because “we have turned sin into a pet.” We need to take God just as seriously when He says to “cut off our hand” as we happily do when He says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Do I (we) really believe that sin is so evil, so harmful, so deadly that Jesus had to take the cross for it?
If you do (and if you claim to believe in Jesus, then your head needs to be nodding yes right now), then it only makes sense to live like you believe it.
We are not supposed to be about managing sin, but destroying it.
So what are your hands?
What are the things that are open doors, making it easy for you to trip, or even run, into sin? Is it a website, relationship, conversation, TV Show, etc.? What are those things in our lives, which if we were honest, only serve as a way to sow little, constant seeds of sin that will eventually grow?
Sometimes it’s hard to let go of a hand. Sometimes ‘picking up my cross’ or ‘death to self’ feels a lot like death. It isn’t fun in the moment. But, it leads to life. Isn’t that a good enough reason to do it?
The question is simple, painful, and important:
Do you really believe that the “abundant life” Jesus brings to us is found in dying to yourself, following him, and only him?
If you answer yes, then it is time to start cutting. It’s time to let go of things that pull me toward death so that I am free to grab onto Him who brings me eternal life.