Sunday, October 06, 2013

Are you a stumbling block?

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 17:1-10

TO CHEW ON: "Then He said to the disciples, 'It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they come.'" Luke 17:1

"Offenses: The term means 'stumbling blocks,' literally the trigger of a trap or a snare," explains a footnote in my Bible.  "Here it designates something that will cause another to sin… Jesus issues a strong warning against being the cause of the apostasy of others, particularly those less mature in years or experience" J. Lyle Story, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1422.

A short survey of Bible verses about offenses helps us understand the gravity of giving offense and the lengths to which we should go to avoid causing it.

Offenses are serious:

  • An offended person can erect strong walls - Proverbs 18:19.
  • Jesus prescribed extreme measure to guard against giving offense. His hyperbole (plucking out an eye if it causes you to sin) shows how seriously we should take things that cause us and others to stumble - Matthew 5:29; 18:7.
  • Jesus deemed it especially serious to cause "one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble" - Mark 9:42.
  • Paul told the Christians in Rome to avoid people who caused divisions and offenses - Romans 16:17.

But things that cause others to be offended may step on our liberal toes:
  • Paul suggested that people limit even food preferences to those that wouldn't offend - Romans 14:21. This was especially significant in the culture of the time because the Jews had for centuries followed strict dietary laws and the Gentiles sometimes ate food that had been offered to idols.
  • Paul also told Christians newly liberated from old taboos to be aware that indulging in their new freedoms could cause weaker brothers to be offended. He told them to edit their behaviour accordingly. - 1 Corinthians 8:9-13.
  • His goal was to not offend anyone - 1 Corinthians 10:31-33, 2 Corinthians 6:3.

Love is the best motivator against offense:

  • John tells us what inner attitude will ease the pain of curbing our behaviour. It's love: "He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him." - 1 John 2:10. (See also 1 Corinthians 10:23-33.)

Whatever this means to us, from abstaining from alcohol because we're with someone for whom alcohol has been a problem to taking off or putting on headwear in church, let's be aware of our brothers and sisters and lovingly adjust our actions so as not to give offense.

Dear God, thank You that the love You give us for others can make limiting our behaviour on their behalf a privilege rather than an imposition. Amen. 


New King James Version (NKJV) Used with permission. The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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  1. I want to be sensitive to where others "are at" and I also hope I'm not one that others have to take extra care around :)

  2. It can be touchy I guess--not giving offense and at the same time not being easily offended. Sometimes too we may be unaware of what could offend others. One thing we can always do is pray that God will alert us to what we need to know.


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