Jesus is so serious about you getting the sin out of your life that he says to cut off the offending appendage if you cannot master it: “If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away” (Matthew 18:8). Amputation of a body part is not His first preference: He would rather you “rule over” the devil (Genesis 4:7). But if for whatever reason you are not up to it, then better to limp through the remains of the day sans eyes or hands or whatever than to keep them and go to hell. Life is short. Eternity is long.
God loves us and wants us to enjoy heaven to the full, with undiminished reward (1 Corinthians 3:15), so He is ruthless against sin. I live hard by a railroad track and am ruthless about the prohibition against playing near the tracks. I do not good-naturedly allow my grandchildren to slip occasionally from obeying that particular regulation, nor do I commend them for a 99 percent compliance.
“In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (Hebrews 12:4). The implication is that you may yet have to. God pardons His child who comes for forgiveness after stumbling, but insists that His child make every effort to obey! He can tell the difference: One man wakes up in the morning and says, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:10). The other mistakes the Holy One for an automatic forgiveness dispenser, and puts up little resistance to temptation. The seeds of his fall are stowaways on his attitude.
Shall we give up teaching people how to hold their bodies in holiness and honor? Shall we say, “Been there, done that, didn’t work. Let’s all just sing ‘Kumbaya’ as we give ourselves permission to fail”? No: “This is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5).
Unless you have ever killed a strong carnal desire, you never know in an experiential way the meaning of “take up [your] cross” (Luke 9:23) and “die every day” (1 Corinthians 15:31) and carry around “in the body the death of Jesus” (2 Corinthians 4:10). Those words are religious gibberish to you. Unless you kill a strong desire, you never know the freedom and growth spurt waiting on the other side of obedience (Hebrews 5:14). The reason it is considered cruel to deny people’s right to unbridled sexual expression is because the mind of worldly man cannot conceive of anything happier than satisfying carnality.
If satisfaction of our mortal coil is man’s highest good, then to love is to allow it. But Scripture says we are to love people enough to warn them of the wrath of God to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10) and to cheer them with the reward of heaven (1 Corinthians 2:9).
A number of older women in my local church have never married and would like to. They have “opposite-sex attractions,” you might say. They do not have occasional slips into a night of fornication because they cannot help it, and because God made them that way and they simply need to fornicate once in a while. They frequent no support groups that celebrate monthly or yearly markers since their last adulterous affair.
If we are not able to die to forbidden sexual desire, how will we ever die when they come to plunder our goods because of the name of Christ? How will we be like that cloud of witnesses before us who joyfully did so because they were mindful of more enduring possessions in heaven and considered it a bargain (Hebrews 10:32-35)?
Jesus says to sever our appendage if it causes us to sin. But this is a bit of a holy ruse on His part. He knows that it does not have to come to this. For “he gives more grace” (James 4:6), so that whatever the temptation, we will find the way out—without the necessity of a bodily amputation.