To stumble is almost as common as breathing. For the young, for those who are elderly, and those in between - all have or probably will, stumble. It is interesting that most stumbling seems to occur within the two "bookend" groups. The young and the elderly are either end. Those in the in-between category are more agile, alert, and experienced in avoiding stumbling. And, that over which they stumble can take an almost endless form. So we have the coined phrase "stumbling block" which is used to cover it all. Children almost always stumble learning to walk. Horses stumble and dump their riders. Athletes stumble endlessly, much of which is part and parcel of the sport itself. Everyone has - or will - stumble over something. It may be in growing up, at play, or at work. But we all have had our share of stumbling.
There is also stumbling at a different level of existence. There are stumbling blocks inherent in relationships. And perhaps it is here that the most hurtful and catastrophic stumbling happens - relationships between people and people, and between God and people, in an almost endless array of settings! Stumbling blocks imbedded within the Christian life in general is somewhat of a hush-hush topic, much because we as Christians are at a loss to describe what is happening. Stumbling blocks have been around a long time! They have often been circumstantial (accidental), they have been deliberately set by kings and tyrants, and even by Satan himself (Revelation 2:13-14)! Jesus was a Stumbling Block to the Jews - and still is (Romans 9:33). Often, there is no way not to be a stumbling block to some in our world (1 Peter 2:6-8). However, the most hurtful and damaging of stumbling blocks in our times are the ones we set up - albeit unintentionally - for others. There are so many complaints about how we as Christians are treated as we strive to live as Jesus Christ would have live in our world. Many are fully justified. Much of the treatment is outright persecution (2 Timothy 3:12).
But there is another side to the coin. For many years this writer has felt that in some ways, we as Jesus’ representatives, damage our cause when we use a wrong approach, or make judgments too quickly resulting in errors in discernment. Sometimes we stumble over our own stumbling blocks. In so doing, be become a stumbling block to others - and what is the natural human response when we "stumble" over something in this way? Someone is offended. Then this can cause them to stumble on their road to the truth.
Of course the world will "stumble" over us, simply because of who we are. So we need much wisdom here. For some just the label "Christian" does not even provide for a correct impression. Then we are burdened with playing catch up to try to disprove a false assumption. This has been so throughout the ages for God’s people. It reminds me of the partial lyrics to a melody which includes the phrase "...but you don’t know me...". Although the world out there will often stumble over who they think we are, it is our universal assignment from Christ to give them as little fodder a possible (Matthew 18:6-7; Acts 24:16-17)). It is what we do and what we say, and how we say it, and what we think, that provides others reason to think of Christ in the proper or improper light. We can become what we think. What do you think about all day long? That can determine who you are to others. Are you feeding on the Word of God? To others, realize it or not, we are "reflectors". They should see a little (or a lot!) of Christ in us. We should pray that every moment of every day of our lives we are not a "stumbling block" to the world. They may not recognize Him, but it is our duty to reflect Him. I pray we can see ourselves, as well as others, in the mirror of God word. (James 1:23-26; 1 Corinthians 13:12).
At the same time, Christians can be and are stumbling blocks to each other. This is favorite devise of Satan. The old "divide and conquer" strategy. The Apostle Paul worked diligently with the churches of the New Testament so establish the principle of not giving offense to each other in the church. One of the most subtle devise is to inject a spirit of summary judgment between us. A discussion of Matthew 7 will not be addressed here (although there is an almost unbelievable degree of misunderstanding of what Jesus is saying), but by "summary judgment" I am referring to a denigration of a person in total - who they are, along with a basic disregard for what their life has been and made of them. Jesus has very strong warning for all of us (Matthew 16:8-9)!
Someone has said that human life is far too complex for another human (also complex) to make a summary judgment of that life. Sadly, it seems to be a favorite stumbling block for some (1 Corinthians 8:9-12).
There is another "stumbling block", often used very effectively by the devil, This one can lie hidden sometimes until, just by a word, a demeanor, a reference, or an implication is perceived as a personal offence. This can be something said by someone speaking from a position of leadership in a church, a preacher or a teacher, etc., that offends the hearer who is also a believer in Jesus. Or, perhaps something read that is disagreed with to the point that it becomes a personal offense, and therefore becomes a stumbling block. This can blind the hearer or reader to a point that anything the speaker or writer says or writes is now not worthwhile. They retreat into familiar territory, where they feel safe and comfortable. Perhaps most of us have done this to one degree or another. Something of value could possibly be lost that could otherwise be gained by waiting, and holding everything in suspension for a while. The Apostle Paul said that we all "know in part" and "preach in part". Nothing is perfect. Nothing is yet complete. Perfection - of all things - is yet to come (1 Corinthians 13:9-12). However, at the same time, we must never cease, with God’s help, to discern truth and preach the truth, and to hold fast only that which is good (2 Timothy 2:23-26; 4:2-4)!
Whatever category you may be in, strive by the Holy Spirit, to discern, first of all, and adjust to all on every occasion, and not give offense, or be offended if something is true, although it may be unfimiliar (Isaiah 57:14; Romans 11:12-14; Acts 17:110). Has someone or something been a "stumbling block" to you?...if so, pause, suspend judgment for a time (unless it is OBVIOUSLY UNTRUE}, discern, pray for that person, and wait until the whole truth emerges. Above all, SEARCH THE WORD OF GOD prayerfully, as the Bereans did! Have you been a "stumbling block" to someone? If possible, and at a proper time, ask forgiveness, make amends if possible. Then forget the past, and surrender the future to Jesus (Philippians 1:10; 3:13)!
Watch for "stumbling stones" - they can become ROADBLOCKS for us and others...may all of us strive to cause no offense on our part, and also strive not to be offended if something is really the TRUTH! (James 3:1-2).
"[Come] and, like living stones, be yourselves built [into] a spiritual house, for a holy (dedicated, consecrated) priesthood, to offer up [those] spiritual sacrifices [that are] acceptable and pleasing to God through Jesus Christ" - 1 Peter 2:5 (AmpBible)
I pray that, in all things and at all times you will no longer stumble over stumbling blocks - toward others or from others, but rather - BECOME 'STEPPING STONES' - into the Kingdom and into eternal life!... Amen!
["Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known". - 1 Corinthians 13:4-12 ESV]
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