In this lesson from Mark 9:42 you will learn that living in peace with others calls for you to radically love them. You will be introduced to principles of extreme love.
We are learning how to live at peace with others. The disciples are struggling with that. Not only are they wrestling with having peace with each other, but also with believers who are not a part of their group and following them. Over the past several weeks the disciples have struggled with divisiveness. Let me give you some examples from Mark 9.
- In verse 14, nine of the disciples were in an argument with some religious leaders about why they couldn’t cast out a demon from a man’s son.
- Then in verse 33 the disciples were arguing over which one of them was the greatest.
- Then in verse 38 the disciples come across a man who is casting out demons from people in the name of Jesus, but they tell him to stop doing it. They tell Jesus the reason is because he was not a part of their group.
That is just from Mark 9. Jesus, once again, has to teach the disciples that He is calling them to a radical life in following Him. Beginning in verse 38 Jesus teaches them about what it means to live at peace with others, especially other believers. So far, Jesus has told them, “If you are going to live at peace with others then it will take radical acceptance. The work of God is more inclusive than you think.” We saw this when Jesus corrected the disciples in how they handled the man casting out demons. This is where we pick up the lesson.
Mark 9:38 says, John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he wasn’t in our group.” 39 “Don’t stop him!” Jesus said. “No one who performs a miracle in my name will soon be able to speak evil of me. 40 Anyone who is not against us is for us. 41 If anyone gives you even a cup of water because you belong to the Messiah, I tell you the truth, that person will surely be rewarded. 42 “But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck. 43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand than to go into the unquenchable fires of hell with two hands. 45 If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one foot than to be thrown into hell with two feet. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. It’s better to enter the Kingdom of God with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where the maggots never die and the fire never goes out.’ 49 “For everyone will be tested with fire. 50 Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? You must have the qualities of salt among yourselves and live in peace with each other” (NLT).
Jesus is calling His followers, you and me, to a radical lifestyle change when it comes to living for Him. I have used this word radical several times. The word radical has two definitions.
- First, it can mean “basic, fundamental or foundational.” It can describe something that is primary and essential. This call to radical discipleship is a primary element and an essential component to the call of a follower of Jesus.
- Secondly, and the more common meaning of radical is something that is extreme, fanatical, severe, and revolutionary.
The language that Jesus uses in calling us to radical discipleship that is severe, extreme, revolutionary, and foundational. He is calling for repentance and a lifestyle that dies to self on a daily basis. He has already addressed this radical call back in Mark 8:34 where He says, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. 35 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it” (vs. 34-35, NLT). This is not a call to salvation, but a call to discipleship… to spiritual growth… to spiritual influence.
This radical call to discipleship involves a radical love that calls for radical responsibility. We see this in verse 42 where Jesus says, But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck. Part of living at peace with others is being very cautious about leading others into sin. Radical discipleship involves a radical love. This is a radical love that says, “I’m going to change me, for you. I’m going to put boundaries on me so I can be a better influence on you.” Let’s think about this today.
Radical love cares about others
First, radical love cares about believers. When you love someone, you will care about them. In verse 42 Jesus refers to little ones who trusts in me. Who is Jesus talking about? Keep in mind, Jesus statement is in response to how the disciples treated the man who was casting out demons but was not a part of their official group. Based on context, Jesus is not talking about children, they can be included in this statement, but Jesus is referring to something different. The little ones who trusts in Him refers to believers who are young in their faith. Spiritually speaking, these are the infants in Christ and the babes in Christ that Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 3. These are children, students, and adults who have placed their faith in Christ for salvation. They don’t know much about what the Bible says. They are still trying to figure out how to apply God’s Word to their life. Yet they have a passion to serve God and bless others. They are wanting to honor God and be used by Him. However, as we will see, Jesus is very protective of these believers who are new in the faith. You and I should be as well.
One of the ways to get on my good side is to help and bless my children or grandchildren. I love my kids, but if you want to get on my bad side hurt one of my kids. Parents are very protective of their children and they should be. In this passage, Jesus is talking about His spiritual children, new believers. Jesus is super protective of his kids just like we are super protective of our kids. He doesn’t want you or me to hurt them in any way by leading them into sin. This is going to require a radical love that cares about believers. Jesus is calling you to radically love them enough to change how you live, what you do, and what you allow into your life. This is radical love.
Radical love promotes righteousness
This brings us to a second observation, radical love promotes righteousness. Jesus says, If you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin…. Let’s look at this phrase fall into sin. It comes from a Greek word (skandalizo) that means to stumble or fall. The Greek word was used to describe a baited trap with a spring-loaded door. Anything or anyone who entered the trap, the door would shut behind them. Jesus is saying that He doesn’t want you to become the trap that leads people into sin. He doesn’t want you to lure them into something. You are to promote righteousness, not sinfulness. You are to promote obedience to God, not disobedience to God. This means you are going to die to yourself, so that someone else may experience true life. You are going to change you, for them.
Radical love calls for a radical perspective
A third observation is radical love calls for a radical perspective. Jesus is very protective of new believers. He is extremely serious about how we treat them and lead them and influence them. Jesus does not want you to lead them into sin. The Lord’s perspective on this is so severe that Jesus says, It would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck rather than lead one of these new believers into sin. This is having an all-out hatred toward sin in your life. Jesus is saying it would be better for you to die than to continue living and leading people into sin. Jesus does not want you to die, He wants you to repent, change, and die to yourself (see Mark 8).
To understand the image that Jesus is using we need to understand what a large millstone is. A millstone was a large, heavy stone used to grind grain into flour. It had a hole in it where a large lever would be placed and attached to a donkey or horse who would pull it in a circle in order to grind the grain. These millstones would range from 1000-3000 pounds.
Jesus says it would be better to attach one of these around your neck and be cast into the sea to be drowned rather than influence a new believer into sin.[i] These are some extremely strong words from Jesus to help us understand His perspective on sin and leading others into it. It is a radical perspective.
I don’t think most Christians have this perspective at all- nowhere near this. For many believers sin is something they have been forgiven of and something they are working on, but they don’t take it seriously. Jesus is calling for all-out war on sin in your life. Jesus is saying, “I want you to approach the sin in your life as if it’s a matter of life and death to you. This is not a game. This is not a simple self-improvement strategy. This is a battle against the current sin in your life.” Jesus does not want you to lead others into sin with your sin. This causes me to ask a question, “How do we lead believers and new believers into sin?” Let me give you four ways.
Through direct temptation
First, through direct temptation. This is where a person blatantly entices another person to sin against God. This can include specific sins, such as lying, gossiping, cheating, stealing, or committing sexual immorality. It can also be a more general sin like inducing people to love the world and the material and temporary things more than God. In Genesis 39:6 we are told, “Joseph was a very handsome and well-built young man, 7 and Potiphar’s wife soon began to look at him lustfully. ‘Come and sleep with me,’ she demanded. 8 But Joseph refused” (vs.6-8, NLT). She directly invited Joseph into sin. Proverbs 1:10 says, “If sinners entice you, turn your back on them!” (NLT).
As a believer we do not want to directly and knowingly entice, encourage, or invite others to sin and disobey God. We must be careful here. Parents will often teach their children how to lie by involving the children in the lie; “If your dad ask about this, tell him we went to visit my sister.” A couple that is dating is pressured by the other to have sex before marriage. This can also happen where we cause someone to not trust God, His Word, and to begin disliking His people, the church.
Listen carefully to Galatians 5:19, “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these” (vs.19-21, NLT). As believers, we need to make sure we are not directly leading people into these sins. Jesus said, if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck. Jesus wants you to take your actions and words seriously. This is radical discipleship and radical love. You deny yourself for others.
Through indirect temptation
Second, we can cause others to fall into sin through indirect temptation. While direct temptation are those things we choose to do wrong, indirect temptation are those things we fail to do right. Let me give you an example of this from Ephesians 6:4 which says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord” (NLT). Parents can unnecessarily provoke, aggravate, and activate unwanted anger in their children simply by the way they are treated. This can come in the form of inattention, lack of affection, lack of forgiveness, lack of kindness, overbearing expectations, over reacting, or harsh and unfair punishment. When we indirectly produce unnecessary anger in others it can lead to sins that could have been avoided.
This indirect provoking to sin happens in parent-child relationships, husband-wife relationships, sibling relationships and other relationships. Jesus said, If you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck. Jesus wants you to take your actions and words seriously. This is radical discipleship and radical love. You are changing you, for them.
Through poor example
Third, we can cause others to fall into sin through poor example. This is closely related to indirect temptation, but I thought it necessary to separate it. Romans 14:13 says, “So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall” (NLT). God’s Word says “to live in such a way” that when others are watching you, observing you, or listening to you, you don’t cause them to “stumble or fall” in their walk with God. The way you act and react to others can be discouraging to other believers, especially if they look up to you as an example.
1 Timothy 4:12 says, “Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity” (NLT). Notice we are to be an example in several areas.
- “In what we say” – Let your speech and words honor the people you are talking to. Get rid of rude tones and vulgar language. Let the words that come out of your mouth have a higher standard than those around you. Not only watch what you say, but how you say it.
- “In the way you live” – Let how you manage your life, time, money, relationships, hobbies, ministry, and service be an example to follow.
- “In your love” – be an example of how to love God, love others, love God’s people and love yourself.
- “In your faith” – be an example of how to trust God when things are going well and when things are difficult.
- “In purity” – be an example of purity, honesty, and virtue in a world where purity seems to be an inconvenience.
Then in Titus 2:7 we read, “And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind” (NLT). Bless people. Serve people. Help people. Encourage people.
Lack of encouragement
We can cause others to sin through direct temptation, indirect temptation, and by being a poor example. Finally, I think we cause others to stumble in their walk with God due to lack of encouragement. Every one of you needs encouragement, support, and motivation in your walk with God. We all are getting beat down by the world, the kingdom of darkness, and our own sinful nature every week. One of the defenses against this all-out attack on you is to have believers in your life who encourage you. Hebrews 10:24 says, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near” (NLT). Learn how to motivate others, encourage them, and inspire them to love God and others and to good things for people. Those people in your life who encourage you, bless you, and inspire you to live for God, to not give up, to endure, and to keep fighting the good fight are people God has placed in your life. Thank God for them. Appreciate them. You need them.
If we get serious about the sin in our own lives and quiet focusing on the sins or weaknesses of others we would bring more peace into that relationship. Remember, the whole point of this section is found at the end of it in verse 50 where Jesus says, “Live in peace with each other” (NLT).
One of the causes of conflict, disunity, and divisiveness among believers is we start focusing on someone’s sin more than our own. Jesus is calling you to get radical about the sin in your life. Take your spiritual growth and your spiritual battles seriously. Change you for them.
[i] The idea of drowning by a millstone around your neck was something that actually took place in history. The Romans dealt with a man who led a revolution against them by drowning him this way. His name was Judas the Galilean. After the Romans captured him, they decided to finish him off by tying a massive rock around his neck and throwing him overboard after they took him out to sea. They did this so there was no grave for people to honor.