Everyday Encounter with God

Pastor Sylvia's Encounters with God in the Midst of Everyday Life


Stumbling Block or Stepping Stone?

Admittedly, I can be influenced by the people around me. At a party with people drinking, sooner or later I want a glass of wine. Movies with nudity are shocking for the first few minutes; then I become desensitized. In a room of people dropping F-bombs, my speech risks deterioration.

This week I have been “pushing back.” Not just with unbelievers—I’ve also confronted friends and family whose behaviors tempt me and others to sin. The results have been disappointing.

Imagine two people. One has had a salvation experience and loves Jesus. The other has no concern for God, has never been exposed to the Bible, and lives in a culture of anger, profanity, and obnoxiousness. What should the difference between them be? Behavior? Looks? Word choices? All these things, but the main distinction is their thinking.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing [your wardrobe? vocabulary? music?] the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

God has given us the freedom to enjoy life. We are permitted to benefit from our freedom, not commanded to exercise it. In fact, the greater our spiritual maturity, the less important our ’rights’ should be to us. Our freedoms should be much less important than consideration of how they might affect those around us.

I received numerous “push backs” in the area of Christian morality:

  • “If you don’t like my profanity, don’t talk to me; this is just how I am.”

  • “It’s my right to bare my chest in public when I breastfeed; it’s not my fault if it triggers someone’s sexual fantasies.”

  • “If you don’t like my obscene Facebook posts, scroll on by.”

Paul knew he had freedom in Christ to eat meat, no matter where it had been. But he also decided there was something more important than his right. Paul didn’t say, "I’m free in Christ, so I don’t care what anybody thinks." He said, "My life is to be a help, not a hindrance...a stepping stone, not a stumbling block." (1 Corinthians 8:9)

Christianity is not a list of firmly established rules. Spirituality is not about externals, but internals. It’s not rules; it’s about relationships. Liberty doesn’t mean we are free to do whatever we want. It means we are free to do what’s right, considering those who are around us. 

During WWII, our merchant ships traveled the oceans in convoys for safety purposes. Some were capable of traveling much faster than others, but the fastest ship always adjusted its speed to the slowest ship. It never completely exercised its freedom because to do so could put the slower ships in jeopardy.

Objects are not moral or immoral; behaviors are. How they affect others determines where they fit in the gray areas of life. Sin isn’t that hard to trigger, even in the hearts of the faithful.

For that reason, we should always be willing to adjust, and if necessary, forfeit our desires if they could potentially cause another to fall.

Scripture tells us that it’s wrong to potentially harm a weaker brother just because you have the right to exercise your freedom. The issue is not whether something is right or wrong. The question is, would you be willing to give it up if it were a stumbling block to others?

“What sorrow awaits the world, because it tempts people to sin. Temptations are inevitable, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting. (Matt 18:7)