Stir it up! – PDF
Key Texts: Deut. 30:6; II Thess. 3:5; Rom. 14; I Cor. 8
As Jesus said in Matthew 18:7 and Luke 17:1, it is impossible to avoid offenses, but woe to those through whom they come, “It would be better for them if a millstone were tied around their neck and they were drowned in the depth of the sea…”. These are words which are uncharacteristic of Jesus’ typical teaching, which should cause all who love Him and take His words with the gravity they deserve – to consider closely their walk, that they not offend their brother or the world.
As we addressed over the past few weeks the word offend is rather stronger a term than it appears in English. It actually means to encourage towards stumbling into sin. Therefore the offense is in itself – sin, at least it is in Matthew 18 and Luke 17.
This week we are looking at walking in love and without offense towards our brother. In this case an offense would not necessarily be sin in and of itself, but due to the conscience of your brother it may be sin to you, if you know your brother is made weak or is encouraged towards stumbling by your walk.
Let’s offer two examples:
If a wife were to pressure her husband to go to a water park when she knows that he struggles with lust. This would be sin. It is NOT a sin to be weak in an area – we all have what Hebrew’s calls “besetting” sins. These are sins to which you are more easily ensnared. The word beset in Hebrews 12:1 simply means to “hinder your progress”. So, everyone has a sin (or sins) which more easily beset their progress in towards the goal of Christ in us than others. Again, this weakness is not sin, it is a weakness in which we need Christ’s power to strengthen us beyond our own ability.
In this scenario, going to a water park is arguably not sin. I say that because there are many men and women who have trouble being around scantly clad members of the opposite sex. Notably, not everyone who goes to a water park is attractive, but enough are that at the VERY LEAST it warrants caution. To extend this first analogy, I will say that it was for this very reason that I (when I was a “youth pastor”) never took my youth group to a water park. Not only did I as a male not need to be around that sort of temptation, I had several young men in their early teen who I KNEW had NO BUSINESS at a water theme park. If I had taken them, I would not have been walking in love, because I would have been willingly placing a cause of stumbling in my brother’s way.
A second, and perhaps more traditional example would be with alcohol. Alcohol is in no way condemned in scripture. Jesus made it and drank it – enough so that the Pharisees felt justified in calling Him a wine-bibber. I say that, because even though I am suspicious that they knew better, the pharisees were not stupid enough to accuse Jesus of something that had immediate and obvious deniability. It was due to there desire to not be discredited like that, that Jesus was able to often silence them for they knew if they answered some of His questions in any direction it would incriminate them. So it is unlikely they would accuse Jesus of something which was obviously untrue.
So in our example, if you have a brother who has been an alcoholic and you were to order a beer or a glass of wine in their presence – you are most likely not walking in love. There is NO NEED to place a temptation or anything before your brother by which they could be made weak or tempted to fall into sin! As Paul said, “if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love”. The word grieved here means to make heavy, sad or to distress. The legalist, (like the Pharisee) will simply erect a fence -law and say, “I will not drink”. While this is fine for them if they so desire, but this same passage tells us that the one who takes this approach should not despise nor condemn the brother who does NOT take this approach. Jesus Himself didn’t even take this approach.
The point being, if you know that what you are doing is setting a cause of stumbling into sin before your brother – you are not walking in love, you are failing to be your brother’s keeper and you are therefore walking in active sin against Christ and towards your brother. THIS is something the Lord takes seriously!
From the beginning, mankind has attempted to avoid their interdependencies and their inter-responsibilties, but their avoidance does not remove from them the expectations God has placed upon them. When God came to Cain and asked him, “Where is you brother?” Cain’s reply was, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Gen. 4:9.
It is interesting that Cain let slip out of his mouth a small morsel of his bitterness against his brother by using this phrase. For his brother was a “keeper” of the sheep, as it says in Gen. 4:2.
While the word “keeper” used in both cases is different, the general meaning is the same. It means:
to be careful
to watch over carefully
The fact that God asked Cain this question, makes the answer to Cain’s question and obvious – YES! You ARE to watch out for, guard and protect your brother. Cain on the other hand let his selfishness trump his familial care and murdered his brother as a result.
The parallels in this story to the passages in Rom. 14 & I Cor. 8 are astonishing, because the result of not watching out for your brother by guarding them against offenses you could perpetrate is – they may be utterly destroyed.
“Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.” ~ Rom 14:15
When listening to this message keep in mind that the offense we are responsible for are those which we KNOW. God is NOT holding you responsible for actions done in ignorance. This is not an encouragement to not know your brother’s weakness, for James encourages us to confess our faults, weaknesses and shortcomings to one another. Never the less, it would equally be sin for you to constantly be wearing the weight and anxiety of offending your brother over every little thing. Some people are simply touchy and easily offended. This is NOT the meaning of “offend” in these verses. In those cases the “touchy” brother is the one who needs to walk in love by not being so touchy.
Ultimately, there is in every Christian the responsibility to rely entirely upon Christ for there support in bearing His image. Remember the encouragement Paul offers in Romans – “…To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.” ~ Rom. 14:4.