Does faith in Jesus call women to stay with an abusive husband, men to mutilate themselves, and all of us to take a vow of poverty?
The teachings of Jesus in passages like those below have been interpreted in this way, although the last two suggestions (mutilation and poverty) are almost universally dismissed in our church today. The first is also dismissed by most of us. But this leads to a question for us to consider: Does Jesus use rhetoric to shock his audience (especially his followers) into thinking about what it really means to follow him?
Consider the following passages. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is recorded as saying
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 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. 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. (Mt 5:27-30)
There have been those in the history of the church who have taken this command seriously at some level, and it has bothered multitudes more. Did he really teach that men should mutilate themselves to avoid lustful thoughts and avoid hell? A commenter on my last post suggested that it is appalling that Christians teach this passage to their sons.