Me Versus We: Part 4, If Your Hand Causes You to Sin, Cut It Off

Again, one of the big points I'm making in this series is how, when we read the Bible as isolated individuals, our imaginations are tempted into a pietistic moralism.

As another example of this, consider Jesus' discourse on how we should treat sin in our lives:
Mark 9.43-47
If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell.
All that sounds very harsh and Puritanical. And it is, but we need to attend to how Jesus' words here are aimed at We rather than Me. Let's pay attention to the verse that kicks this text off:
Mark 9.42
If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.
And let's also note the final lines from this teaching of Jesus in Mark 9:
Mark 9. 49-50
Everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.
Notice how Jesus' concern about sin focuses upon the community: "If anyone causes one of these little ones to stumble."

It doesn't really matter, for our purposes, if "little ones" refers to literal children or to disciples of Jesus. Our point is that Jesus' harsh language concerning sin is focused upon a community, not a solo actor wrestling with a private vice. This focus is highlighted in the final words of Jesus' discourse: "be at peace with each other."

All that to say, we privatize our sin when we focus on Me. We end up thinking that sin is primarily about naughty things I do in private than as actions that harm the community. Sin is a Me problem,  we think, rather than a We problem.

But for Jesus, it's the exact opposite. Victory over sin, for Jesus, is less about piety than it is about peace. Sin is a We problem.

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