In the last section Paul talked about not judging your brothers and sisters in Christ over doubtful things. Doubtful things are things that the scriptures are not plain about. They are matters of conscience, meaning we are free to choose in these things. He said that, “each of us will give an account of himself to God.” This scripture above is the very next verse. (Read it again) Notice he is not speaking to the world in general. He is speaking to those who call themselves Christ followers. A stumbling block is considers an obstacle to progress. It’s making things more complex through perplexity. Doubt and confusion are the main ingredients to a stumbling block. This is also used as a metaphor for a behaviour or attitude that leads another to sin or to destructive behaviour.
This is a big deal to Paul and we know this because he talked about it again in 1 Corinthians 8.
This isn’t about right and wrong. It is about encouraging fellow believers to act against their conscience. This is a heart attitude that Paul is getting after. It’s a heart attitude that says, “I dont think this is wrong, you should think like me.” We do need to be mindful of other believers. We are called to love. If we are doing something (that is not clearly a sin – like patronising a certain establishment, reading a certain kind of book, or even going out dancing) If what we are doing causes another to judge us that is their problem because they are judging. A stumbling block is being the one to encourage another to do the thing that their conscience says, “ehhhh, I probably shouldnt do that.” They do not have the same freedom as you. Therefore, do not cause them to stumble.
Stephen Altrogge said it like this, “We are free to enjoy whatever scripture does not forbid. If a person thinks we’re wrong, so what? However, our freedom must always be wrapped in concern and care for others. If our freedom actually leads someone else to violate their conscience then we have become a stumbling block.”
If i just want to do what I want to do regardless of it you like it or not when you are with me and I somehow encourage you to ignore your conscience then I am doing damage to a brother or sister. Paul uses the example of food again int he next few verses.
I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. 21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.Romans 14:14-21
These “doubtful things” were causing the church to become divided. Paul said, “if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love.” We dont get to ignore the effect we have on our brothers and sisters. We don’t get to flaunt our personal liberty, we must take care to walk in love toward one another. We are the body of Christ and the family of God.
We are to behave much like a family would. If someone is allergic to pepper, it would be cruel to invite them over and make everything you set before them with pepper in it. No, rather we leave it out. We dont say, “Well, we can eat it!” We would think that chef is unkind. That is what Paul is expressing here.
Each of us must live according to our conscience. We will stand before God one day. We may be doing something that is not clear as to whether it is right or wrong but if the Spirit of God in us nudges us to leave it alone, walk away, and not to partake. We must obey! This is to walk in faith. If we continue to approve them in our lives without heeding the Spirit of God we are condemned in the thing we are doing. Therefore, follow the Lord!
Paul gives us a principle by which we can judge these “gray areas” – if we can’t do it in faith, then it is sin. Period! This is a wonderful check on our tendency to justify ourselves in the things we permit. If we are troubled by something, it likely isn’t of faith and likely is sin for us.– David Guzik
Thanks for Listening,