Stumbling Block or Steppingstone
People are following our tracks. Whether we realize it or not. Love must temper our personal freedom to keep followers from stumbling.
Stumbling blocks trip others. Paul challenges us to decide once for all to avoid whatever interferes with weak believers’ progress in the faith.
Weak believers don’t perceive the liberty they have in Christ (Romans 14: 1, 23). They lack biblical knowledge (1 Corinthians 8:7). Their conscience condemns them for things the Bible permits (1 Corinthians 8:7, 10, 12). The example of a differing stronger believer can influence them to act contrary to their conscience (1 Corinthians 8:10).
Weak believers include young adults who were raised in strict, legalistic homes who are still developing their convictions. Also, recent converts emerging from a sin-stained past they’ve turned their back on. Add to the list believers from another country or culture. Finally, insert dependent children of convinced differing believers. The danger is that we can exercise our freedom in gray areas in such a way that it causes those with many inhibitions to stumble. They follow our example even if we don’t pressure them to do so.
As a result, their conscience rebukes them. They’re distressed. They lose fellowship with the Lord because violating their conscience is sin (Romans 14:23). Whether our knowledge is mature or not, we mustn’t violate our conscience.
In gray areas, let’s not force our convictions on other believers. Neither should we condemn those whose convictions are different from our own.
Not everyone who disagrees with us in gray areas is a weak believer. Some believers with strong convictions are offended when we refuse to line up with their own point of view. Others may differ from our opinion but still accept us and not stumble into sin because of our example.
It’s far better to be a steppingstone than a stumbling block. People walk on steppingstones. That’s the price of love.
Sacrificing our freedom in gray areas because of the convictions of weaker believers might seem unfair. But Jesus’ going to the cross to pay the penalty for our sins isn’t exactly fair either. Jesus is our steppingstone. We’re to be like Him.
The most important things in life aren’t the externals like what we eat or drink. They’re righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (verse 17). The Holy Spirit’s control produces these three in our lives. If we yield to the Spirit and major in a godly life, we won’t fight over gray areas. We won’t insist on exercising our own freedom. As we together pursue peace, we create an atmosphere where we can build one another up in the faith. In this atmosphere, weak believers grow toward maturity.
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