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What is a stumbling block?

(The following is the July 3 devotional from my Next Step Devotions book. Before reading it, I suggest you read Romans 14 and pay close attention to verses 13-23.)

After discussing Christian liberty in Romans 14:1-12, Paul tells believers how to manage that liberty. “Therefore, let us no longer judge one another: Instead decide never to put a stumbling block or pitfall in the way of your brother or sister” (v. 13). We should care how our actions impact others, including fellow believers. Are we helping and building up the body of Christ, or are we acting in ways that potentially harm others’ faith, especially those less mature? The answer should impact how we live.

Christians desire not to be stumbling blocks to others, but we don’t always define what that means. We are not stumbling blocks merely because we do something another person doesn’t like. It is impossible to go through life and please everyone along the way. Some will approve of specific actions we take, and some will not. That doesn’t necessarily mean we are a stumbling block.

We cross the line and cause someone to stumble when our actions lead others to a crisis of faith. We are a stumbling block if our behavior leads them to violate their conscience, take God’s Word or their faith less seriously, or, God forbid, turn from Christ. If what we do hinders another’s relationship with Christ, we’ve crossed the line.

Paul’s guidance to avoid being a stumbling block is to do the loving thing, not prioritize our liberty. “For if your brother or sister is hurt by what you eat, you are no longer walking according to love” (v. 15). “So then, let us pursue what promotes peace and builds up one another” (v. 19). “It is a good thing not to eat meat, or drink wine, or do anything that makes your brother or sister stumble” (v. 21).

If we do the loving thing that builds up the body of Christ, we will not be stumbling blocks to others.

Next Step:

Can you recall a time when you or others were more concerned about exercising personal Christian liberty than loving and building up others? How should you handle such situations now?

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