© Photo by Ross Cochrane – Rothenburg City Square
Matthew 18:7-9 – SOMETHING IS ROTTEN IN ROTHENBURG
© Photo by Julie Cochrane – Rothenburg Welcome
The yellow flowers growing in the fields heralded our entrance to a quaint, walled medieval city called Rothenburg in Germany. There we found streets untouched by the centuries, ancient doors that led us to fascinating treasures and a garden overlooking a beautiful valley.
© Photo by Julie Cochrane – Path to a beautiful Park and Garden
© Photo by Ross Cochrane – Doorway through Church into walled garden.
© Photo by Julie Cochrane – Bella Vista from the walled garden
I climbed the bell tower in the city centre with my brother-in-law, up a long narrow stone and wooden stairway, finally arriving at a small doorway which led to the upper part of the tower. I admired the door with its ancient iron tracery and latches.
© Photo by Julie Cochrane – The Bell Tower
Looking forward to the view from the top, my mistake was to look down as I attempted to pass through the passage, the visor of my cap screening the top of the opening. I discovered that the stone in the tower is very unforgiving and despite the unkind remarks later about the tower rocking and the bell ringing, the only thing resounding was my head as I reeled back toward the stairs from which I had ascended.
Bruised and battered and with a bell sized lump on my forehead, I tentatively made my way, somewhat more carefully, to the top, to be confronted with the most amazing view of the township.
© Photo by Ross Cochrane – walkway around top of Bell Tower
© Video by Ross Cochrane – View from Bell Tower
With all its quaint beauty, my thumping headache perhaps should have reminded me of a more sinister past in this Medieval haven. Through a beautiful archway, we came across a wood and iron basket hanging from a lever, a relic from the Torture Museum. Torture was considered to be a legitimate way of extracting confessions, names of accomplices, or the details of a crime or treasonous act against the king.
© Image by Ross Cochrane – Torture Museum
Here in the loveliest of places, even the Church leaders, in an effort to maintain power, decided that any deviation from Church doctrines amounted to treason against the King of kings. And those who search for inconsistencies in the Christian faith are quick to point out the travesties of Biblical thinking these leaders used to justify their own use of torture to extract confessions and even to make people recant their faith in Christ.
© Photo by Julie Cochrane – A Quaint Village
Apparently Church leaders in Rothenburg somehow justified themselves in ignoring Jesus teaching on loving your enemy. In Matthew 5:43-47 and Luke 6:27 Jesus says, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbour’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.”
Such torture reminds me of the gross images of torment Jesus uses in Matthew 18:7-9, not towards others but in relation to ourselves; “So if your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand or one foot than to be thrown into eternal fire with both of your hands and feet.
And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell (Greek the Gehenna of fire).”
Sure, Jesus is not being literal but don’t water this down! This is important! Jesus is using graphic hyperbole (obvious and intentional exaggeration). Jesus tells His disciples that humble obedience is essential when you become a follower of Christ and not to be dissuaded by others. He uses language that is forceful and overstated to get His point across.
Did the religious leaders of His time threaten to employ such torturous methods to stop people from believing in Christ? If so, Jesus turns their language around, using the very language of persecution and torture to emphasise how important it is to believe in Him without wavering.
In Matthew 18:7 (NLT) Jesus warns “What sorrow awaits the world, because it tempts people to sin. Temptations are inevitable, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting.”
He goes on to say that it is better to do the torture on yourself than be tempted to enter eternity without believing in Christ. Better to be rid of actions and behaviours (hands), focus and vision (eyes) and any other course or direction (feet) that would try to tempt you away from trusting in Christ.
In context, temptation to sin is the exact opposite of being humbly obedient and responding to Christ. Anything or anybody who thwarts a person’s response to Christ in humble obedience is tempting them to sin.
Obviously, Jesus is not advocating self-mutilation to deal with temptation to sin. So what is He saying to me and you? He is saying in effect, “Deal with the cause! Focus your attention on the things that would stop you from being humbly obedient to Christ (eyes). Take whatever action is necessary (hands) so that you don’t stumble (feet) in this basic area of belief.”
© Photo by Ross Cochrane (Walled Village of Rothenburg)
So does this mean if I am not humbly obedient to Christ then I’ll go to hell? Jesus is simply saying do whatever is necessary! Whatever or whoever tries to stop you from believing in Christ, cut it or them off from your life, because those motivations and people will not be found in eternity.
This is important because the only unforgivable sin is not believing in Christ.
2 Cor. 10:5 says “we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,”
Romans 6:11-13 (NLT) says “So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.”
1 John 5:18-21 (NLT) says “… We know that we are children of God and that the world around us is under the control of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come, and He has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and He is eternal life. Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.”