“it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble.” Luke 17:1-2
There are certain things Jesus said that frighten me. Saying that it would be better for me to have a millstone tied around my neck and drowned rather than be a hypocrite is one of them. Some others? That if I don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive me (Matt. 6:15); and that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven (Luke 12:10). I take these scriptures very seriously. I just figure it’s silly for me to believe what Jesus said about my salvation but assume he was mistaken about these other things. I take them seriously, and I fear God.
I’m not going to qualify what I mean by “fear God,” if for no other reason than I am tempted to, and I am sure I am tempted to because of the snowflake theologies of our generation that have created an ambient pressure to only define God in terms of His love for us. Such theologies enable misguided pastors like Rob Bell and destroy misinformed ones like Carl Lentz, and they can lead the rest of us astray as well. We should choose to serve the God of the Bible, not the God of The Shack.
If we are choosing to serve the God of the Bible, we should know there are some things He “hates” (His word not mine): divorce (Malachi 2:16), arrogance, lying, and killing of the innocent (Proverbs 6:16-17), plotting to do evil (Proverbs 6:18), perjury and causing discord in a family (Proverbs 6:19), those who love violence (Psalm 11:5) and religious hypocrisy (Isaiah 1:14-17; Luke 17:1-2). If God hates these things, we should be scared to death about engaging in them. To put it in theological terms: these things should carry for us a high pucker factor.
We should take note that the last item in this list of things God hates was also mentioned by Jesus here (Luke 17:1-2). In response (presumably) to this and Jesus’ statement about forgiveness, the disciples ask Jesus for more faith. But Jesus responds by implying this is only a matter of very small faith (the size of mustard seed) (Luke 17:5-6). It is actually more a matter of fear. As Jesus said, “fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28. The fear of hypocrisy should compel us to holiness.
You are probably waiting for me to “balance” all this out, to tell you that “Yes, but perfect love casts out fear” or “even if you are a hypocrite, God will forgive you,” but if saying that causes you not to fear God, then I have done you a disservice, and it would be a disservice of the same type as the pastor-author who preaches universalism or the celebrity pastor who has sex with the girl he met in the park who is not his wife. I fear God too much to do that to you. GS