“And if your foot causes you to sin, 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 sin, 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, where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’” Mark 9:45-48
Years ago, I heard about a preacher who delivered a powerful sermon on the subject of sin, damnation, and hell. After the service, one of the church leaders confronted him and offered a suggestion. “Pastor,” he said, “we don’t want you to talk as openly as you do about sin and hell. If our boys and girls hear you it will be very easy for them to fall into temptation. Call sin a ‘mistake’; call hell by another name; but please, please, don’t go into detail.”
The pastor removed a small bottle from a shelf behind his desk and asked, “Can you read the label? It says ‘Strychnine.’ Underneath the name, in bright red letters, there’s a skull and crossbones and the word poison. Should I change the label? What you are asking me to do would be like changing this label. Suppose I write ‘Pirate Candy’ over the skull and crossbones, what do you think might happen if one of our little ones saw it? The milder the label, the more dangerous the poison!”
No doubt many who listened to Jesus talk about cutting off feet and plucking out eyes would have preferred He speak a little more mildly. Today, many interpreters of the Savior’s words say He was just exaggerating and we shouldn’t take Him too seriously. Minimizing the warnings of the Savior is a dangerous thing for anyone to do. Jesus did have a sense of humor, but when He speaks about the dangers of hell, it is time for all who hear to sit up and take notice.
Think about it. Jesus left the joys of heaven to be born here on earth. During the course of His life, He was rejected, laughed at, accused, and ridiculed by the very people He had come to save. In the last week of His life He suffered betrayal, scourging, and crucifixion. Why did He undergo all of this anguish? So you and I could be free from the fires and flames of hell.
Of course, it is not necessary for us to do any eye-plucking or feet chopping to escape damnation. Indeed, we can’t do anything to free ourselves from eternal destruction. Jesus, through His sacrificial death, has done everything necessary for us to be saved. For that reason we don’t minimize the dangers of hell; we maximize the salvation the Savior has won.
Excerpt from The Lutheran Hour sermon preached on October 19, 2003
The Prayer: Lord, allow me to re-examine my life with Your wisdom as my guide. I do not want to cover up the sin in my life. Teach me how to expose it, and deal with it head on. I want a clean heart, Lord. In Jesus' Name. Amen.