“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
(Matthew 18:5-6 ESV)
After explaining how one gets into heaven yesterday – by adopting a child-like attitude towards Him – Jesus today explains how people should treat those who are part of His family (i.e. Christians). All parents appreciate those who treat their children well and don’t welcome those who treat their children poorly. God is the same way (we are made in His image, after all).
Whoever receives (i.e. welcomes) one of God’s children in Jesus’ name receives Jesus. The phrase “in my name” means “in the same manner as Jesus”. When a person (non-Christian or Christian) treats a Christian as Jesus would, they are treating Jesus kindly. Here we see the inseparability of Jesus and His people. Whatever affects believers affects Him [Matthew 25:31-40; John 15:5; 1 Corinthians 12:27 et. al].
But whoever (non-Christian or Christian) causes a person who believes in [Jesus] to sin is not appreciated by God. In fact, Jesus has some of His harshest words for such people saying they would be better of being killed in one of the most horrific manners possible.
Millstones were used in mills for various purposes and as such came in different sizes. The great millstone Jesus refers to here was the biggest of all that was turned in the grinding process by animals. It often weighed hundreds of pounds.
One form of execution carried out by the Roman government was tying a heavy stone around a person’s neck and dropping them off the side of a ship into the ocean. Jesus’ analogy here takes this to the extreme by referencing a stone larger than any normally used and also referring to the the deepest part (depth) of the sea.
Anyone who trips up one of God’s children and gets them to sin will face a wrath from God that is so fierce that they would be better off dying in this manner. This is how valuable those of us who are part of God’s family are to Him
Parents don’t like boys who get their daughters pregnant. Or those who introduce their kids to drugs. If they could they would make the life of these perpetrators miserable. Likewise, God fiercely protects His children. But the difference is, God can (and will) get His revenge when His children are harmed.
Christianity is not a systematic religion. It is a collection of forgiven sinners who are adopted into God’s eternal family through faith in His son, Jesus [John 1:12]. As such, we receive blessings that are not available to those outside the family. And at the same time, our father (God) fiercely protects us.
Human families work the same way. Parents provide their kids with food, clothing, and education. They don’t do such things for children who are not theirs. God created the family unit to be a living metaphor of the eternal family that He is building through Jesus [Ephesians 2:19-20].
All of human history can be summed up in one sentence: “God is creating a family and He wants to adopt you into it”. Those who opt to become part of that family will enter heaven and receive an eternity of blessings.
And anyone who entices one of God’s children to sin will someday face God’s wrath and wish they’d died a slow agonizing death instead.
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