Satan has many devices to cause confusion and heartache for God's people. One of the tools he uses so successfully is to cause stumbling blocks to be placed in our paths.
A stumbling block is something which causes us to err or to stray from the truth. Casting a stumbling block in one's way is the opposite of being our brother's keeper.
The seriousness of casting a stumbling block in one's way was made very clear by Jesus when He said "But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in" (Mt. 23:13). The very ones who should have been helpful were guilty of making it more difficult for God's people to do what was right.
The problem of causing others to err has been evident since long before Christ. Isaiah wrote ". . .Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumbling block out of the way of my people" (Is. 57:14). Malachi also wrote of the problem when he chastised the messengers of the Lord who " . . . . are de parted out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the Lord of hosts" (Mal. 2:7).
Ezekiel wrote at length about the shepherds who were more concerned about their selfish interests than they were about feeding the flocks. In Ez. Chap. 34 he wrote of those who neither cared for the diseased nor sought those who were scattered. The sheep wandered upon the face of the earth and no one searched for them. The stumbling block was acts of selfishness and neglect.
From this example and other scriptures, we can understand that there are many ways we can cast a stumbling block in the way of God's people. Perhaps the most serious stumbling block of all was committed when the Savior was put to death. This was done to discourage others From following Him. The Jewish leaders at that time were willing to go to any extreme to silence the message of salvation and to prevent anyone from following Jesus.
Persecution against Christians has been tool that Satan has used ever since Christ arose from the dead. "...And at that time there was great persecution against the church. . ." (Acts 8:1). Throughout history and continuing to our time, persecution has made it difficult for those who want to worship God.
The preceding examples have been quite blatant and easy to recognize. We must also understand that there are more subtle, but very effective, stumbling blocks that cause men to fail. We must be careful that we do not allow ourselves to be guilty of them.
"Christian liberty" has often been used as justification to engage in activities that, at best, are borderline sin. It is true that Christ came to earth to liberate us from Satan. It is also true that we ". . . shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption unto the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Ro. 8:21) and ". . . where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (II. Cor. 3:17).
The Apostle Paul wrote much about liberty. In Romans 14 he encourages us to have forbearance with a weak brother who may not have faith to do as we do. However, he also wrote of the need to "...take heed lest by any means this liberty of your's become a stumbling block to them that are weak" (I Cor. 8:9) and to "...use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another" (Ga. 5:13). Peter wrote that we must not use "...your liberty as a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God" (I Pe. 2:16).
How, then, can we be sure we do not put a stumbling block in our brother's way? God is faithful. In His Word He pro vides instruction that helps us in this matter. "He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him" (I Jn. 2:10).
Jesus said "This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you" (Jn. 15:12). If we love our brother as Christ loved us, there will be no sacrifice which is too great. If Christ was willing to die for us, we ought to be willing to go to great lengths to see that we do not cause another to fall.
Paul helps us understand that we should be willing not only to avoid sin to help our brother, but that we should be willing to go much further. If there is something that we see as harmless that might offend one with a weak con science "...for whom Christ died" (I Cor. 8:11) we really must be willing to do what we can to be helpful to others.
Clearly, Paul saw no harm in eating meat, even if it was sacrificed to idols because he knew ". . .an idol was nothing in the world, and there is none other God but one" (I Cor. 8:4). Even though he knew idols were nothing and eating meat was harmless "...if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend" (I Cor. 8:13).
Jesus Christ came into the world that we all could have the opportunity to be saved. He came to save us from eternal separation from God. He makes it clear that we are to love and help one another. He also made it clear that there are two destinations for the souls of man. One is eternal bliss with God. The other is "Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" (Mt. 5:12). If we follow the teachings of Jesus we will help one another reach our goal of eternal rest. If we do not follow His instructions we could cast a stumbling block in the path of our brother. An editorial committee of elder brothers is preparing articles for this section of the Silver Lining to address some of the special needs of our times. ----------------------
From the Silver Lining, December 2004. An editorial committee of the Apostolic Christian Church's elder brothers prepared this article.
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