If Matthew 5 28 - 30 says that we should dismember ourselves for even thinking of sinning how can one live a truly Christian life and still keep their body whole?
This is one of the instances when the Bible can be taken too literally. Here is the scripture as most are accustomed to reading it, in the New International Version: ---- "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 sin, 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 sin, 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." NIV
---- Now, let's look at it in a more recent translation, known as "The Message": ---- "But don't think you've preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed. Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body. Those leering looks you think nobody notices--they also corrupt. "Let's not pretend this is easier than it really is. If you want to live a morally pure life, here's what you have to do: You have to blind your right eye the moment you catch it in a lustful leer. You have to choose to live one-eyed or else be dumped on a moral trash pile. And you have to chop off your right hand the moment you notice it raised threateningly. Better a bloody stump than your entire being discarded for good in the dump." MSG
---- In this case, The Message translation of the Bible captures the meaning and the mood of the statement more clearly than other, more literal translations. The intent of this message wasn't for the world to end up blind and dismembered simply for following Christ. That would be ridiculous. Then no one would be able to do the work that God had set out for them, and no one would want to join a group of blind, armless lunatics. If one was to take this literally, even their tongue would eventually be cut off, along with other less mentionable members of the body. Even then, a man could still sin in his heart just by dreaming of his lust for another woman. Then what? Cut out his heart? No, that is not the answer. The meaning of this message is to convey the seriousness of the sins of the heart. It is to express how important it is for us to maintain constant, willful control over our thoughts. As it has been said before (and, if I'm not mistaken, written in scripture): "Thoughts lead to words, words lead to actions, actions become habits, habits become your character, your character becomes your personality, your personality is who you are." As a matter of fact, I believe Jesus was quite likely drawing from the Old Testament when he made the statement in question. Here follows Proverbs 23:12-14 in the New International Version, and then more clearly emphasized in The Message: ---- (NIV) "Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge. Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death." ---- ---- (MSG) "Give yourselves to disciplined instruction; open your ears to tested knowledge. Don't be afraid to correct your young ones; a spanking won't kill them. A good spanking, in fact, might save them from something worse than death." ---- The bottom line of this is that the corruption of the heart is just as sinful as the corruption of the body. If you meditate on sin, yet do not commit sin physically, you may as well have committed the physical sin anyway. (This is not to suggest that once you meditate on a sin you should commit it just because you've blown it already anyway.) Once a lustful or sinful thought enters your mind, you should rebuke it, and repent of it. Don't let yourself meditate on it any longer. - Iszi I totally agree with the others about this verse. However, another thing that I get from this is that in our lives in general, we need to "cut off" anything that causes us to sin, not just our bodies. If we have friends that cause us to sin, we need to lovingly distance ourselves from them while praying for them and encouraging them to accept Christ. A good illustration is that it is easier to pull someone down a mountain rathen than up it. There are numerous temptations in our everyday lives that cause us to sin and we do not even realize it. An example is television, music, jokes, even our general environment. We need to surround ourselves with Christ in everything we do. I must agree with the above answer. It is not literal. You must get rid of those things in your life that cause you to sin. I believe that is what it is saying. While not disagreeing entirely with the previous posters, it is important to remember the analogy used elsewhere in holy Scripture of the Church being a body. Following that analogy, cutting off offending members (cutting off a hand, plucking out an eye) would refer to excommunication of those who are corrupting the Body, i.e., the Church.