A thought came to me yesterday, about Jesus saying it would be better to cut your foot off if it causes you to stumble into sin. In the past, I have read that as a huge statement against homosexuality, one that homosexuals wanting salvation (without giving up homosexuality) refuse to accept. In a way, it can be read as a philosophy that promotes forced sterilization of homosexuals, in some Hitleresque-Stalinesque form of totalitarian government that would be the model for a Christianesque form of theocracy. But, then Islam already has that form of religious control and condemnation of sinners; and, Christianity would rather allow abominable sinners into its midst (even let them wear the high hats of religious leadership) than promote cutting off anyone's sex organs.
The stumblers of Christianity today always say in their sinful defense, "If Jesus were here today, in these times when everyone I know is gay, 'Go. Your homosexuality has been approved for you to be members of a church and even lead it.'" Jesus seems to have a way of saying whatever one wants Jesus to say these days. The problem is having to ignore what Jesus did say, according to the Gospels.
Because of this prevalent attitude in some denominations of Christianity [I personally know this sickness is pervasive in the Episcopal Church, but the disease has spread to others as well], I have found it best to walk away from an environment that welcomes disease and go it alone. Even if a church has good folk who prefer to stay in a diseased-state group, through some antibody-like commitment to fight against an unwanted invader to the body, that is not the truth. I prefer to be a whole church as one body, in search of another body of like mind, which is the true model of Christianity, as I see it.
The temptation to try and "convert" those who equally look at me and see my moral destruction as their goal and objective is a losing battle, one I choose not to fight. I believe the instruction to love your enemy means walk away from an enemy and let him or her be alone with his or her hatred of anyone who is not like him or her, rather than put up a fight. Fighting to force one's will upon another can only be motivated by hatred.
This morning I did a search of the verses where Jesus gave this sermon of what would be better to do to the body and I found this is the source of some questions, as to it meaning. One question asked, "What does it mean?" and the response was (I paraphrase now from memory): "It means the church cannot accept sinners within its midst, because that acceptance means the church is bound for hell." In other words, the answer to the question was to cast out the sinners, in a metaphorical cutting off of those parts of the body.
That is not the right answer. That rejection from a church implies the "church" is whole, with just a few sinners needing to be cast out, in order to make the "church" whole again. That, my friends, is wishful thinking at best; at its root is the sin of thinking the leaders of that "church" are greater than thou, when Jesus confronted that attitude by saying, "Let you who is without sin cast the first stone." (John 8:7) Christianity has become pools of sinners that justify their own sins, while spitting venom at the other sinners. In a rock fight, everyone should just go home.
This makes it important to ponder just what Jesus said about cutting off body parts. In that search, it turns up twice Jesus made similar statements, at two different times, under two different scenarios that prompted him to give the same basic answer. Here are the two places Jesus said it would be better to cut off a body part than to sin, with the translations coming from the New International Version (NIV); their headings are included in bold font.
Adultery (read aloud Epiphany 6A / Proper 1A)
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. [Matthew 5:27-30] Causing to Stumble (read aloud Proper 21B)
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. 43 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.  45 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. [46 varies on the translator] 47 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, 48 where “‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ [Mark 9:42-48]
First, let me address the verses that come from Matthew. Chapters five, six, and seven of Matthew's Gospel are announced to the world as being from "Jesus' Sermon on the Mount." Because of that general misrepresentation, there are many Christians that believe Jesus put on some special event, much like a Rolling Stones concert tour, where the band is guaranteed to play all their most popular tunes for all attending to hear. I have written my views on this before; but let me repeat what "the sermon on the mount" really was.
Jews in synagogues were wanting to stone Jesus to death because of what he said and did in them on the Sabbath (their Saturdays). When pilgrim time came and the synagogues were filled to capacity and not everyone could get inside for a lesson, Jesus took to the hillside that overlooked the Sea of Galilee, where the acoustics were phenomenal. There he taught lessons; but not all at one time! Matthew's chapters five, six, and seven stretch over many weeks, when Jesus became a rabbi whose "synagogue" was the hillside and valley (flood plain) below. Thus, when we read a heading that says "Adultery," the reading for that Sabbath was from one of several possible readings from the Torah, such as Exodus 20:14, Proverbs 6:32, Deuteronomy 22:22 and/or 5:18, Jeremiah 3:8, or Leviticus 18:20.
Which reading (Jesus would have read from his heart, not from a scroll) is unknown. The known (unseen) is that there is Law against adultery. The Law notwithstanding becomes a recommendation for the body-soul to comply with; but we all know how well sin is controlled by words on a piece of paper, especially when lust is raging all over one's body [hint: not very controlling]. Thus, the lesson of Jesus was not "You know the Law!!!"; it was a statement that breaking the Law meant condemnation.
To avoid condemnation, one should realize the importance of avoiding that - AT ALL COSTS. To avoid that condemnation for breaking the Law, Jesus said "It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell."
Then, in the Mark verses, Jesus was in between coming down from the high mountain (Mount Hermon) after his Transfiguration and his triumphal entrance into Jerusalem for his last Passover. Since this is after the series of sermons given from the Galilee-Decapolis region, Mark was doing like Matthew and recording what Jesus was preaching about. Mark wrote his words after some disciples reported to Jesus they saw someone casting out demons in his name, which caused them to tell him to stop, because he was not one of those who followed Jesus around [like them]. This means Jesus gave a sermon to those who called themselves followers of Jesus. [Does that sound like Jesus scolding people who would write answers on the Internet today that say a "church" has the right to cast out those not part of its ways for following Jesus?]
In both lessons presented by Jesus, the same message is clear: Sin and go to hell. When Jesus said "it is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell," his examples of eyes, hands, and feet must be seen as metaphor. Nobody of sane mind is ever going to cut off a body part to stop himself or herself from breaking the Law; not when it is much easier to simply reject God and worship oneself as god of one's flesh. Therefore, Jesus was not promoting God wanting amputees or disfigured human beings going to heaven.
The metaphor of cutting off a body part is self-sacrifice. This means a soul [the immortal gift of life breath to a body of flesh, given freely by God] is joined with a body that is temporal and known to eventually die. Body parts are then all those elements of a worldly existence that surround an immortal soul, tempting it [like Satan] to go away from God and make the body feel good. This goes well beyond adultery, as the body will be tempted to steal, lie, kill, and serve other gods, all because a body of flesh is made from the realm of sin. This was why Jesus was tempted in the wilderness: to see if he would give in to sin [Satan] or tell sin [Satan] to get out of his face. Jesus chose self-sacrifice over the promises of a temporal incarnation to an immortal soul in a body of flesh.
I am now going to get pornographic and show you what needs to be cut off of a body, in order to avoid hell. Please, if you have any small children near or anyone with a weak stomach, send them away before scrolling down further. This is what Jesus wants you to cut out of you:
[Jeopardy theme song playing in background]
Has everyone gone, so it is clear to make the reveal? Okay, here goes:
Now, before anyone runs to the drawer and takes out the scissors, let me make it clear that the picture is metaphor. A human being without a brain is incapable of doing anything; but a human being with half a brain is called a simpleton and therein lies the answer to the question about why Jesus said to cut off body parts.
I remember watching an old television show about the mummification process in ancient Egypt. The narrator said the priests who prepared a king for the afterlife had vases for every internal organ in the body, except one. That one organ was the brain. They removed the brain from the deceased king's skull by sticking rods up the nasal hole, causing the brain to turn to mush and run out of the nose into a waste basin. They threw the brain away, the narrator said. Now it makes since, because who needs a brain in the afterlife? It would only get in the way.
To grasp that same symbolism in what Jesus said (twice that we know of), one needs to look at that immortal breath of life that God gives freely to a body of flesh. The immortal soul is like the basic brain. The soul by itself is a simpleton. Once it enters the body of flesh the organ called a brain envelops that soul, so the soul begins to identify with what has been learned. The greater one's knowledge base becomes and the higher one scores on intellectual quotients that compare oneself to a mass of selves, the greater one's simpleton immortal soul believes itself is some form of god to worship. Therein lies the root of all evil: Satan as a Big Brain.
It is Satan whispering into one's brain that influences a simpleton soul to listen and believe the whispers. Satan says to follow the body's lusts. Satan points out what looks pleasing to the eye. Satan tells a soul to use its hands and pick up something it does not own and keep it. Satan says to hide the truth and deny everything if caught. Satan says to use the hands to pick up rocks, knives, sticks, and any and all modern weapons and kill anything that gets in one's way to self-pleasure. Satan influences a soul that used to be in an opposite sex, in a previous life (or lives) body (or bodies) of flesh, influencing a new body (in the opposite sex) to dwell in that past mindset, one that should no longer serve the new body, and lust for pleasures of the flesh that can never result in making babies. God told Moses to tell His people, if a man lies with another man that is an abomination and the punishment is [not castration] DEATH. Knowing that and calling oneself one of God's chosen people, but then ... every time the soul listens to the influence of Satan to lust for the same sex, then in essence, a soul that listens and acts on Satan's command is selling itself (an eternal soul) to the devil for momentary gain. An eternity of hell is bought for a moment of bodily pleasure that is so fleeting it will never be remembered once hell is entered.
When Jesus said "it is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell," that is metaphor because what is better is not what is best. What is better is still bad. It is just not as bad as letting one's bodily organs lead one around like an ox harnessed to a plough. Cutting off a hand or foot, or plucking out an eye is bad. God formed those body parts in the womb and breathed in an immortal soul to have the body God intended. To cut off a part, with no reason other than some body part controls me and condemns my soul to hell, means one still cannot control that one body part that listens to Satan way too much.
It is impossible to will oneself to be righteous for long. One can will oneself to do good things and then do good things that one wants to do. When one does not want to do good because it means resisting something a body of flesh has learned to want (due to the temptations of Satan), then over time the self-will will deteriorate and collapse, usually with a binge running in to make up for lost time. Satan is too powerful for one body of flesh to resist, so a soul alone will eventually lose a battle of wills with Satan, who will then have won over the simpleton soul to serve him and do as he says.
In all the stories of the Gospels that tell of Jesus (or his disciples, or some guy using Jesus' name) casting out demon spirits, those stories tell of Satan having gained absolute control over those souls. We Christians today believe there were people filled with demonic spirits, as told in the Gospels. We believe Jesus (and others) cast those demon spirits out. What is so difficult to grasp is this: If a demon spirit can possess a soul-body combo, then why can't a good spirit likewise possess a soul-body combo and make it do incredibly wonderful things?
Such a possession is called Eudaimonia, with the demon possession Christians recognize called Cacodemon (from the ancient Greek "kakodaimōn"). Many a Hollywood movie has been made about cacodemons, but none have been produced to make people believe he or she can be possessed by good angels or benevolent spirits. Jesus called that the Holy Spirit; and, Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus spread the Holy Spirit to souls that had lowered their Big Brains in submission to God Almighty and lo and behold those who Jesus said, "Go. Your faith has made you well" were not only going away happy, but they were going away filled with the Holy Spirit. We KNOW that because Mark reported that one was seen casting out demons in the name of Jesus Christ.
When Jesus told his simpleton disciples, "For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me" (Mark 9:39), the one casting out demons in his name had no influence in him from Satan (Mister bad things to say demon).
When Jesus told his disciples, "for whoever is not against us is for us" (Mark 9:40), the one casting out demons in the name of Jesus was filled with the same Holy Spirit as was Jesus (and his disciples would be too, soon enough).
When Jesus told his disciples, "Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward" (Mark 9:41), he said the one casting out demons in his name was indeed the Christ, through the Holy Spirit possessing him.
Jesus then told his disciples, "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" (Mark 9:42). The use of "little ones" (the Greek word "mikrōn") is reference to the level of soul the man caught casting out demons in the name of Jesus [AND OTHERS UNSEEN by his disciples, based on the plural number of "little ones"] - all those Jesus touched spiritually and told to go with faith - were simpleton souls whose Big Brains did not squash the faith right out of them. They believed in Jesus, which is a statement of faith (which the Greek word "pisteuontōn" means) and their faith in Jesus was through their knowing the Holy Spirit personally, on a soul level.
When Jesus told his disciples it would be better for them drown in the sea, that was metaphor form him stating the best thing for anyone attacking Saints ["little ones" filled with God's Holy Spirit] was death. Drowning states a need to die of self-ego, so their bodies of flesh would no longer have any sway over their simple souls. Attacking a little one of God is bad for a soul, causing it to be better to kill that hatred within oneself.
None of those casting out demons in the name of Jesus were who they were before they encountered Jesus with full faith that he had been sent by God to save their souls. All of them surrendered their worthless lives because they came in contact with Jesus, so all were reborn in his name. Thus, the man caught by the disciples was truthfully casting out evil demons in the name of Jesus the Messiah, who had been reborn in him (before Jesus physically died) through the Holy Spirit of God [there is plenty to be shared].
Thus, when Jesus named body parts that cause stumbling, the stumbling was relative to faith in God, knowing God is All-Powerful. Rather than the truth being "My hand caused me to go to hell by picking up something not mine" or "My foot made me walk over to the gay bar and sell my soul to Satan," the truth is "My brain makes me want to be an abomination before God, which means I worship my body, not God, so God is turned away from facing me, because I have turned away from God." It would be better to shoot oneself in the head and go to hell trying not to sin, rather than go to hell because Satan knew what strings to pull inside one's head, that made his monkey on a string do whatever he wanted.
Before anyone goes to the drawer to pull out the handgun, that too is metaphor. Even if it would be better to cut off a body part or shoot your brain out, it still does not free the soul of past sins. Jesus saying it is better is like a carnival barker saying, "Close, but no cigar." Close means points earned for reincarnation, not a guarantee to go to heaven and remain there, one with God.
In the Gospel story of Jesus going to the Temple and observing a Pharisee pray loudly about how God loves him, making sure others heard his self-proclaimed goodness, he was a sinner because of self-love (blinded to that fact). Jesus then observed a publican [tax collector] silently beating his chest because he knew he was a sinner, but just did not know how to stop. When Jesus said the publican was closer to heaven than the Pharisee, that was said in the same vein as if Jesus said: It would be better for the Pharisee to pray like the tax collector. It says BOTH MEN WERE SINNERS, but one sinner was headed the right way ... towards complete self-sacrifice ... whereas the other was so full of himself he was far from salvation. Anytime God comes in second to one's own self-worship, putting oneself before God, then that soul-body combo is breaking the first commandment.
To point out just how little Christians have an understanding of what "it would be better" or someone "is closer" means, I read a sermon posted on a blog written by an Episcopal bishop. This is a man who served as a priest for some length of time, until he stroked the right backs long enough to be voted into a position of grandiosity. He wrote about Luke 18:9-14 and the sermon he wrote is a copy and paste version of every sermon ever given by all priests about those verses, which is this: Admit your sins and you are closer to salvation.
I posted on the bishop's blog a comment that suggested he was speaking like a Pharisee. He was boasting that he was so good he could tell who was closer to God, telling others to admit their sins. I asked him why no priest ever sees himself or herself as the Pharisee? Why is all the focus on the tax collector, with that making it appear as if his sins were so clear to everyone, everyone jumps all over him with fingers pointing. No one ever dares to condemn the Pharisee. Why? The bishop gave a flimsy excuse [at least he replied without threatening to have me thrown in the sea with a millstone around my neck], as anyone does who is called out for not being the greatest Christian God has ever known. Christians get defensive when anyone questions their claims of having faith.
The answer is clear to me. If you want to go to heaven, then you need to stop thinking of yourself as special. You, regardless of your position in life, have to see yourself as a sinner. Then you have to sincerely beat your chest from guilt, begging God to come help you, because you cannot possibly be righteous by your own will power. Then you have to believe God will answer your prayer, sincerely made. Then, when God presents you a test of your prayer, to see if you are telling the truth, you must expect that you will be slammed full force with Satan's lures to stop all that nonsense about giving up all the things he has rewarded your sins for. Promises made to God in prayers will be tested.
God will let Satan show you a naked body of whatever sexual preference you hold dear, if sins of the flesh are your addiction. God will see how blind you have become to such lures, knowing all your past failures very well. God will let Satan create a mistake by the bank to be in your favor, just to see if you will give the money back. God just might have your boss call you up with that big promotion you have lusted for, for so long, just to see if you know the cost for such a job is one soul. Whatever your addiction, God will test your resolve. The wilderness experience is a requirement that cannot be skipped.
The only way to succeed is to sacrifice your self-ego and become a simpleton soul in a simpleton body, like the disciples were. You have to completely die of self-worth for a figurative three days of death, when people spit on you and call you loser to your face. You have to lose all desire for anything other than pleasing God.
In that way there is no figurative assessment of what would be better for you to do to save your eternal soul. The metaphor is an Apostle has cut out the brain that once led them to sin. It can get no better than that. A Saint has suffered death, been buried, only to resurrect as Jesus Christ (all while remaining a simpleton soul in the same body of flesh). Death is figurative, meaning a total sacrifice of one's ego to serve God. But that does not end the story. It begins the new you, when you go out casting out demons from others, just as your old demon has been cast out; and, you do it in the name of Jesus Christ, because that is the truth. Whoever you were (and your i.d. cards in your wallet still refer to that name) you have ceased being, having become the resurrection of Jesus within your soul, leading your flesh around as your soul watches [Eudaimonia].
The truth is not memorizing what others told you to say, it is the faith of personally knowing Jesus. You know him because your soul stands behind him as you watch him run your body the way God wants. Your weak soul has been possessed by Jesus Christ, so no lures of Satan will become your distractions ever again. If you cannot make that claim - knowing God knows the truth - then you still have a ways to go before you can claim to be a true Christian.
Get to that point of self-sacrifice means you get to keep your body parts intact.