Luke 17, Jesus says: “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! 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 (stumble)…” and then he goes right into “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him…” (even if it takes 7 times).
This made me think…where is the ‘line,’ so-to-speak, where you are a “little one” who is “caused to sin/stumble” on one side, and on the other you are the one who “causes others to sin” and would be better off if you were cast into the sea with a millstone hung around your neck? If a child learns to sin from his father’s sins, and he grows up likewise with bad habits and brokenness, and in turn has a son and, sadly, his son learns how to sin from him… is the child, who is now a father, still a “little one?” Or has he become that man who Jesus says “woe to you!” Is there a line? And at what point does God “cast him into the sea” because he is causing others to stumble…and at what point does God look at that man, and see the child in him that was “doomed” because he was dealt a bad hand, had a bad father (or just a broken father), and then has compassion on him even though he has caused a “little one” to sin?
I am sure it must have something to do with whether the man, who was once a little one who was caused to sin, has a repentant heart or not. But what if he is bounded by the temptations he learned as an innocent “little one,” who was not protected by, say, righteous parents, for example? What if he is in bondage to his sin that even with a repentant heart, he is not strong enough to break his sinful habits, and thus he sins-repents-sins-repents-sins-repents…seven times…and seven times seventy? Does he ever get free? And is it only by his choice that he gets free, or does God ever intervene? Does God watch and wait because he believes in this man, or does he see him struggle and say “I will pull him out of his vicious cycle, for he was lead into that wrongful path, and now he is trapped and cannot get out…so I will come down and free him, that he may be innocent again.”
And that sounds exactly what Jesus did. Exactly. And yet, I still see the struggle in people today, even in myself. And I still wonder where that ‘line’ is…when a child, afflicted by a mental disability (most likely an evil spirit), who as a “little one” enters this world and spends his childhood not understanding life, his disability, or his emotions… and is withdrawn, doesn’t know how to make friends, or even want to. This “little one” who was dealt a bad hand, born into a sinful world as an innocent babe, and yet has a mental dysfunction…and grows up to his teenage years and walks into an elementary school and kills several precious, innocent “little ones…” Who caused this one to sin? Because I scream with all my heart, “Woe to the one who caused this young man to sin!!” “Woe to the evil that was upon this little one when he entered this world…and woe to the evil that he brought to other little ones!!” At what point do I look at a murderer and see the small, innocent child that was lead down a path of destruction? And at what point does God say “Enough!”
But God did say “Enough,” and sent his Son into the world in the most vulnerable way – as an innocent babe. And He watched him grow amidst the evil in the world, and watched him give his life for such a world…because He believed in the people he created. Some wept as Jesus died, and some laughed. And yet even today, thousands of years later, God still fights for His little ones - big and small – and forgives again and again because of what Jesus paid for. Wow. Jesus’ sacrifice really was “enough.” But if we really believed that, it would change the way we live our lives…and this world would look a lot different.