This is a teaching that will be followed by a story that will illustrate it, but for today we’ll just do this part, because I’m so lazy. : )
Jesus says sin is inevitable. No one is perfect. We make mistakes, we disobey, and we stray from the path. But it’s one thing to be a flawed person, and it’s another to use your influence to lead someone else off the track. Three things come to mind for me:
1. Leadership is more accountable than normal people. It’s not just the person who sinned who is accountable, but also the person who caused it to happen. We will be held responsible for the influence we have on other people, and what our actions cause others to do.
2. This is especially true in the case of “innocents,” such as children, “rookies,” or particularly vulnerable people. If a parent or leader guides them rightly, then blessings to you. But if you mislead one who is an easy target, you are even more accountable for the wrong you have committed. But especially don’t give offense that makes others stumble away from the kingdom of God.
3. God is fair. He takes into account not just what we do, but who cause us to do it and what kind of influence we were under when we did it.
So, Jesus says, let’s take care of each other. If you see someone else screwing up, do what you can to help him. And if someone is trying to straighten out his or her life and they need forgiveness, then give it. We have bearing on each other, and our relationships count.
But what if they keep screwing up? After a while, y’know, anyone would doubt that they’ve got the hang of what’s going on. Jesus says, as long as they are sincere, trying, and they really mean it when they’re sorry, then don’t be the one to stand in their way.
The apostles responded in v. 5: Dude, we’ll need help with that. Like, who can do what you’re asking here?
Let me put it this way: even if you put a little drop of sewage in a glass of water, the whole glass of water is now sewage. It may be different quantitatively than if you dipped the glass in a cesspool (ew….), but regardless, even a drop in a glass gives us the same definition: it’s sewage. Sin is like that too. If a crystal glass has a small crack in it, guess what? It’s cracked. I think that’s the point Jesus is making about faith. In this case (and faith does have different meanings in different contexts), faith is so vibrant and dynamic and relational, that if you have a little, you have the whole package. This “faith” is so supernatural, one piece equals its fulness. Hope is like that too. Even one spark of hope—a tiny light at the end of a long dark tunnel, is hope all the same. Hope is hope is hope. If you have a glimmer, you have hope in its fulness. Like electricity. It’s not the size of the connection that matters, but the quality of it. Even the smallest connection, properly set, will make electricity flow with power, and a large one, corroded, will stop it cold.
So who can do this? Anybody can. You don’t have to be the boss. It doesn’t matter if you’re the servant. What’s available is available. We each have our role to play—each our function to fulfill. Just do it. What you need will be available to you.