Stumbling Blocks

Stumbling Blocks

Dear Friends,

Recently, I have been thinking about ways that we as a church and as individual Christians inadvertently discourage people from encountering the saving message of the gospel.  I know that sounds crazy because we are called to be light and salt to the world around us (Matt. 5:13-16).  My guess is that none of us consciously want to exclude anyone from interacting with the redeeming love of Christ.  I am sure that, like me, it is your desire that everyone experience the amazing saving grace of Jesus just like we have!  That’s why I think it is so vital that from time to time we evaluate our lives and practices to make sure that we are not unwittingly placing stumbling blocks in front of the very ones we are trying to lead to the Lord.

Most of the time in the Bible, a “stumbling block” refers to something or someone who keeps another from a relationship with God. In Matt. 18:5-7, Jesus says, “And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!”   We don’t want to be that guy!

Stumbling blocks also arise in unintended ways. The mature Christian life allows some freedoms that seem contrary to an obedient, disciplined faith. The Corinthians were concerned about eating meat sacrificed to idols. Modern issues include drinking alcohol in moderation or dancing. “But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak” (1 Cor. 18:9). Our liberty is not worth another’s walk with God. If something God allows would lead another to sin, we need to avoid it. We are given great freedom as Christians, but the greatest is the freedom to consider others’ welfare over our own.

As a church we may create stumbling blocks to the unchurched as well.  These are things that make it difficult for people to walk through the doors and find a seat in order to hear the gospel.  For example, I believe our current location is a stumbling block to many.  Insufficient parking can be a stumbling block or poor directional signage.  How we present ourselves in print or on the radio may cause people to stumble in their walk to the cross.  Once people are inside the doors there are many more opportunities for stumbling blocks.

Can we as a church remove everything that may be a stumbling block to the non-believer?  Probably not, but the more we are able to tackle and remove, the more salvations we will eventually see.  The problem is that many of these stumbling blocks to others are personal preferences of our own.  These are the when, where and how we like things done in church and worship.  What are we willing to sacrifice for the salvation of souls?  How much was our Lord willing to sacrifice?

Refraining from being or creating a stumbling block and removing existing stumbling blocks is essential to our commission. How we accomplish this depends on our concern for others and the hearts of those around us. The security we have in God’s love and provision, both now and eternally, allows us to show concern to those who are weaker and those who need specific encouragement to understand who God is. In some situations, we may need to sacrifice our freedoms to build up weaker believers and not confuse non-believers. 

As a church, we need to be attentive to society around us and consider cultural changes and biases.  In various ways, Jesus, Paul, John and James, all tell us that we are not to be of this world but we are in this world as ambassadors of the Kingdom.  Without sacrificing Biblical truth or godly morality we need to be palatable and attractive to the lost all around us.  That is being “salt” so that we might share the “light.”  The light, of course, is the gospel and the gospel is the only stumbling block that we should want the lost to encounter.

Only by Grace!

Pastor Mike