“But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”
I Corinthians 8:9-13 NKJV
Self restraint is one of the most difficult things for the follower of Jesus Christ. It encompasses every aspect of life, and there are implications that have a major impact on the spiritual lives of others. One must go through ones own life with a regard for weaker brothers and sisters, who might find what we do offensive, or at the very least, a stumbling block.
I remember many years ago I used to love a certain brand of root beer that came in forty ounce bottles that looked conspicuously like actual beer bottles. As a joke I took one to church in a paper sack and wandered to the office of the then worship leader of my church. I will never forget the look on his young face, as he turned as white as a sheet, then as red as a pomegranate. I revealed the root beer, assured him it was not alcoholic beer and left his office.
I felt a strong conviction from the Lord, for I had caused undue concern in the heart of one weaker, one not easily given to grace.
When I read through I Corinthians chapter eight this morning, I was reminded of something that seems to be lacking in the American church today. We have lost the sense of empathy, that other awareness, where each of us is mindful of the others that Lord has saved.
I have been in situations, where professed brothers and sisters in Christ have sought to tempt other followers into sin, thus placing themselves in peril before a just God. Many of us think that we can do things to other Christians and that our God does not see. He does indeed see, and He documents. In some cases He deals with those who seek to harm the brethren in tragic ways.
God hates the actions of those who seek to bring spiritual harm to His children.
“These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.”
Proverbs 6:16-19 NKJV
One who sows discord among brethren. An abomination before the Lord.
In regard to liberty, I have made an effort to live peaceable with all people. As a black man, living in a world that is overwhelmingly white, I make an effort to not seek out offense. When I encounter bias, I answer it with prayer, with kindness, for the God I serve is fully aware of the hearts of those in opposition, and I am confident that He will deal with all things in due time.
Those who struggle with race issues are weaker spiritual siblings, for they have been captured by sin. I call them out using the word of God, and not by reacting in kind.
There are many things in the church that have served to separate those in any given congregation, whether it be politics, perceptions of social justice, culture, or whether or not one should drink. I for one, am a non drinker, though in previous times, I loved my beer and wine. Because I have ministered to many who have been captivated by drink, I choose never to drink again as to keep the brother or sister I love from stumbling. It is a sacrificial love.
I love them because Christ died for them.
Brothers and sisters, we have liberty. We have the assurance of heaven, for we have been saved through faith in Jesus Christ who paid it all. For us, there is now no condemnation. This is not so for those who have not come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Paul was writing to a people within a very carnal church, who lived very much as the world does.
Because of their carnality, they were not effective in reaching the world for the Gospel. We are likely the last generation with the opportunity to reach people for Jesus. Because of this, we must be accurate representatives of our Savior, for we are His ambassadors.
Let us consider our liberty, making sure that it is not a stumbling block, but a sign of freedom we have in Jesus. Let us focus on our testimonies, of how the Lord of Glory freed us from our sins, our habits, our need for things that altar our moods and emotions.
Let us love those who have become trapped by sin, being sure to bring no more harm, that the power of the Holy Spirit bring salvation.
There are many outside the household of faith, who were once of it, but have fallen way because they experienced something toxic. May we be a people careful not to replicate those things that pushed them away.
Let us approach each other and the world with empathy and gentleness, that God get the glory.
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