Thursday, March 26, 2009

Stumbling Blocks

Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way. (Romans 14:13)

But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. (Romans 14:15) For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. (Romans 14:20-21)

The entire chapter of Romans 14 is in view here for context, as well as other portions of Scripture (like 1 Corinthians 8). Romans 14 stands up here because it directly discusses the issues between "strong" and "weak" Christians. I've heard Romans 14 referred to more than once as the "law about doubtful things" since it concerns practices and/or beliefs among Christians that are not salvation issues and not otherwise addressed in Scripture.

The first point is that such things are to be left to Christian charity (love) since they do not touch on salvation, God will judge (verses 4 & 12). The second is that the "strong" are not to rub the noses of the "weak" into it (verses 3 & 10). The third is that the "weak" are not to judge the "strong". (verses 3 & 10).

The first point is fairly straightforward, since one of the things that make something doubtful is that there is no direct evidence of bad "fruit" from practice/belief. To determine otherwise and declare it to be something other than doubtful puts the one who declares it in the position of usurping something God Himself has claimed and expressly denied mankind, namely the ability to read the heart of the person.

The second point is so that people new or weak in their faith not be driven away or forced to do things that their conscience does not permit them to do. If you want to give up something for Lent, go right ahead. I'm not going to be one to tell you that you are just practicing papist traditions. If you feel led to it and are doing it through faith as a memorial, then the blessing you reap will be yours.

The third point serves the same point as the second, since both are to prevent the "strong" and the "weak" from tyrannizing the other and forcing them to act against their consciences. In this case, the "weak" cannot simply wave the "stumblingblock banner" and make the "strong" (for the sake of "unity", of course) conform to the "weak" brethren's practices/beliefs.

Misinterpretation of this subject is one of the largest problems in modern churches, where for the sake of "unity" the second point is emphasized and the third point is ignored. Known as reducing to the lowest common denominator, it stifles the growth of Christians and makes for the "seeker friendly" movement which perverts the Gospel in favor of turning churches into clubs where "felt needs" can be "met" without the "nasty bits" of Scripture. Even in church bodies that haven't turned down that road, you can still find the "politically correct" view that one must never give offense! Excuse me?! Just because someone is offended, we shouldn't mention or "promote" (a buzzword for suppress in many cases) practice X? When we have a Message that is an offense to the wisdom of the world? See how it starts?

I'm going to digress a bit here, because those that know me who might be reading this could get the impression that I consider myself one of the "strong" and not one of the "weak". In some things, I do consider myself "strong" (although I've had that opinion changed before as I've gained more understanding) and in others I know myself to definitely be "weak".

For example, reading Scripture and praying should be (and often are) a joy and pleasure. At times though, they seem to be a burden and not worth doing. So I opt out to a "weak" position of simply doing them by rote, because God says to. Why do I do something that could be considered legalistic or Pharisaical (observing the form without regard to the Spirit)? Because experience has shown me that in these cases, if I wait until the mood strikes, it is a long time in coming and I still feel unfulfilled, but when I follow what God says to do, the joy returns much faster and I learn much more.

Now we can move on to the crux of the matter. When does something that is doubtful become something that makes my brother stumble and therefore something I should refrain from doing?

Here we must discern what the issue is. What is its source? How good are the facts backing the issue up? If the issue is offensive because of pronouncements by people, writings or simply something heard (gossip), then we can evaluate. If the claims of doubtfulness on an issue are based on lies, then just because some Christian claims this issue to be a stumbling block for them, should it be considered so? If something is thought to be un- or anti-Christian because of these lies, can stumbling block status be claimed for it? Should we, as Christians, give into a lie in the interests of "unity"? Does the Gospel of my Lord Jesus Christ need to be "defended" by a lie? Does the Church of Jesus Christ need to be kept "pure" by a lie?

I don't think so. A lie has nothing of the Truth in it and so is contrary to Christianity (1 John 2:21). In fact, following a lie and a liar has been spoken against directly: Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God. Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God. (John 8:41-47)

Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. (Revelation 22:14-15)

Should we, as Christians, when we find a situation like this based on a lie give in to the "offended" ones in a congregation or point out the lie?

If we do give into the lie for the sake of the "offended" ones who are in ignorance of the truth instead of educating them in the truth (perhaps because it is easy that way), then do we put a block in front of the brother who is the one who has the "offensive" issue?

I know, some will say "just go find another church", but I'm one who doesn't believe in that kind of "buffet Christianity". Most especially when I know that the place that I am at is the place where He wants me to be.

No comments:

Post a Comment