A few weeks ago, as I was reading, I was struck with something in the New Testament that I have not noticed before.
“And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. 3 Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, 4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” (Luke 17)
I have always understood the verse about the millstone as a warning to the evil and wrong that fills the world, which also can have a potential danger on a new believer and cause him to sin. But when we read it in context here we can see that Jesus is talking about the holiness of his people. He is talking about his concern for the type of life that exists among them, and he is telling them how important a pure church is to them. So the warning is actually to those who are among his people, claiming to be brothers, who cause other christians to stumble or falter.
Jesus loves his church. The church is the most precious thing in the universe to him. What this also means is that Jesus pronounces a very serious and powerful warning to all do harm to it. The depth of his love is reflected in how much he blesses those who love him, but it is also reflected in his powerful hatred to that which destroys his church.
But why are his words so graphic and strong? Isn’t Jesus the one who has brought the love of God rather than his wrath?
Indeed. And the church is the shining amazing product of that love. Those who are impacted by his love are bound together by it and become the greatest witness that this fallen world has of His glory in their lives. His love binds us together and by this the world knows that we are His and that He is great (John 13:35). The love of the church is the greatest gospel presentation! What happens when you trample on that? Bad bad things.
So lets bring this down to a practical level. What impact do you have on the church around you? Do you care about the holiness and unity of the church just as he does? Do you approach life and challenges in the church with the utmost care? Do you ask yourself how your actions, words and decisions impact the christians around you?
Very often we can see how christians destroy unity among the church in the name of truth, forgetting the fact that the REASON the church has the truth is so that it can build itself up and grow. Often we can catch ourselves pointing out things that truly need to be improved, yet we do it with an attitude of negativity and criticism. Even as we think we are serving him, we may be inflicting that greatest pain to the heart of Christ.
The church of Christ is bound in love, and grows in love. Anything else will cause destruction from the inside out. Let us carefully examine our hearts to make sure that the terrible implications of Christ’s words are not directed at us. We have been warned.