Updated: Jan 2
By Luke Lancaster
Jesus says that we must abide in His love by keeping His commandments, and if we do not, then as a branch is cut off from the vine, so will Christians be cut off from Christ. Some may say that that is too harsh, for all of us disobey the commandments. While true, we need to keep in mind the distinction between a serious break from the commandments, and a lesser break. The first will cause the branch to be cut off from the vine. The second will weaken the branch. This distinction is called MORTAL vs. VENIAL sin.
Take the example Christ gives of the fifth commandment: “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna (NAB Matt. 5:21-22).
Murder is a serious sin, and that would cause the branch to be cut off. However, the root of that sin is anger. Getting angry at somebody is not a serious sin, but would make that person liable to “fiery Gehenna,” which is a city outside of Jerusalem that burns trash. Rabbis sometimes said that lesser sins would need to be purified through the fire of Gehenna before reaching Heaven, and that would probably be the case here. Thus, there is a distinction between a sin that deserves “a severe beating,” and a sin that deserves “a light beating” (Luke 12:47-48). Christ’s teaching about being cut from the branch is not too harsh as some may think.