Do Not be a Stumbling Block

I just finished reading Hillbilly Elegy, and I was saddened that the same church that served as a rock of stability during the author’s most tumultuous season of life later became a stumbling block to him as a result of its rigidity, judgmentalism and close-mindedness.

A few days later a friend expressed deep grief over the church sexual abuse scandal: ‘This has really rocked my faith in so many ways. It’s just so hard to understand how they could allow this kind of behavior and coverup.”

The church has inflicted so much hurt and pain that the facades of new churches are being designed to not look like churches at all, lest people be deterred from even setting foot inside.

The real hurt, however, happens on the inside. Since “we” are the church I am feeling a new urgency to look in the mirror and challenge the ways my walk with Jesus may have caused another to stumble.

  • In my past I have bought into the idea that one set of beliefs about Jesus are “more right” than another, aiding the fragmentation of the body of Christ and making it harder for us to minister in unity to a hurting world.
  • I’ve believed that some sins are worse than others, giving a foothold to the lie that I am somehow a little more righteous, when the Bible truth is that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
  • Too often I have played God myself, deciding who is “worthy” to receive my love, grace, forgiveness, time or service. I struggle to love those I deem unlovable. I squirm with indignation toward the insolent. And I fail to seek patience for those who require it.
  • I hope to be judged by my intentions, yet I’m quick to judge others by their actions, overlooking the context that reminds me we’re all broken and usually doing the best we can.
  • I’m inclined to seek refuge on “the mountaintop,” huddled with fellow believers who look and think like me, and shirk the discomfort of being in the world with those who think and act quite differently from me. It’s easy to minister to my needs and forget that God can use me as an instrument of  hope and rescue to others.
  • And far too often I fail to pour out a portion of Christ’s grace and love with the same lavishness and extravagance by which it was bestowed on me; instead, duty-bound, I throw down truth made brittle in the absence of grace.

If any of these stumbling blocks ring familiar for you, or call to mind similar ones, will you join me in inviting God’s Spirit to do a work in your life, enabling you to follow the example of Paul as he imitated Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1):

Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever.

I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!

1 Corinthians 9: 19-23

  • Keep your bearings in Christ.
  • Step out and experience others’ point of view.
  • Serve humbly so they might be inclined to follow your example. 
  • Talk less. Do more.

If you’re feeling motivated right now I encourage you to take a first step by reading Chris Marlow’s treatise on how we each can begin living lives that look more like Christ’s church. Its title and core truth are: Doing Good is Simple.

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