Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Woe To The One Through Whom Temptation Comes

Matthew 18:7-10 (ESV)
"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! [8] 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. [9] 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.”
“For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes.” Makes a man cringe. Makes me cringe. It doesn’t take me thinking long before I can come up with an example or two of tempting another to sin… And if I took these words as literally as Baptists take the book of Revelation, I don’t think I’d have a hand, foot or eye left. Origen, the early church father, was barred from the priesthood because in youthful exuberance he took these words a bit to seriously and castrated himself. His bishop argued he was no longer a man.
And that is the irony in this. Self mutilation itself is a sin. I think that is the thing here. Sin, is really a catch 22. Sure some sins can be avoided and ought to be avoided. All sin that can be avoided ought to be avoided. Lutheran confessions are hard pressed to make many classifications on sin. Sin is sin, all equally damning. Yet historically systematic texts going back to Chemnitz do find ways of grading sin, not to say that some sin is more sinful than other sins. That is the perennial argument of the Old Adam, that wants to judge others by a different stick than he judges himself. I know of no one not guilty of that, including myself. But it is just true that some sins tend to be more toxic for one’s own faith than others. Not deadly sins, but sins unto death, sins that harden the heart and have a manner of pulling one away from Christ. Some sins have greater and more immediate temporal ramifications than others. Some have a way of demeaning one’s self and/or others. They have a way of denying one’s humanity. For instance lusting after your neighbor’s wife is one thing. Committing adultery with her is going to have a greater consequence than putting that temptation behind you and going home to your own wife. It is for these reasons that pastors have no choice but to counsel people against certain sins. Quite frankly we can’t do other wise, it would be unloving to ignore some sins. Un loving towards those Christ has entrusted to us, and unloving towards those even outside the church. Sexual sins are often times the most dehumanizing, adultery and fornication etc. God has many warnings against profaning one’s self and others in this manner. That is taking you yourself who are holy by the blood of Christ, and trampling upon yourself as pearls before swine. When we love ourselves we don’t do this to ourselves, and when we love ourselves we learn to love others with the love of Christ who loves us. It all goes back to love, a proper scriptural love for self and others that does not treat others as if we were animals on the discovery channel.
And don’t despise the little ones. They belong to Christ. The deserve our love, and the grace of God that he gives in Baptism. Yeah I’m hung up on that one. It is not love that denies the grace of God offered in baptism to little ones. That is to despise the little ones.

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