If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.
“For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”Mark 9:42-50
At a recent evangelism class, someone pointed out the issue of how some Christian leaders’ sinful conduct pose a problem for others to come to faith in Jesus. While it is not a real knock-down argument against the Christian faith, it must be recognised as a legitimate stumbling block for many seekers and believers. After all, how could leaders who profess to know the truth about God (and instruct others in it) still commit wrongdoing—and not just any wrongdoing but flagrant and transgressive ones which are severe violations of law?
Hence, Jesus tells us to deal with sin in our lives lest they cause us to become stumbling blocks to others. Sin begins like small wound. If we fail to deal with it, it gets infected and festers for a while before becoming a life-threatening systemic infection. When that happens, the consequences of sin are severe with far-reaching implications. Lest sin leads us on the road to perdition, we ought to remove whatever causes us to sin from our lives.
The Holy Spirit is the one who works in us to liberate us from sin, but the process is not a walk in the park but a purgation through fire. Anyone who is serious about dealing with sin will know it is not easy to fight disorderly passions within and abounding temptations without. Hence, Jesus said, “For everyone will be salted with fire.” This harks back to the instruction in the Old Testament purify the offerings to God with salt (Lv. 2.13) and the prophecy of Christ’s coming as a refiner’s fire (Mal. 3.2-3). All who belong to God will be salted with fire and refined from the impurities of sin. Yet, the process will be one as painful as self-mutilation, but not one that is worse than the fires of hell.
May God give us the courage to deal with sin in our lives, as painful as it might be, and may his Holy Spirit purify us for his Kingdom. May we not be stumbling blocks to others but the salt of the earth that brings out the wonderful flavour of God for the world.