Causing Someone to Stumble is Overrated

I’m going to make a new law, that is inspired by Godwin’s Law.  Read about it first if you don’t know what it is.  Here is my stab at one.

The more one disagrees with and is offended by a belief of a fellow believer the more likely they are to accuse them of causing someone to stumble.

In every post that I have written that has cause a “stir” in the faith community, it is inevitable that eventually I will get accused of my beliefs having the potential of causing someone to stumble.  In different situations with my life, I have been told that I should stop whatever writing because it will cause someone to stumble.  It happened back when I was seventeen when I was questioning some Pentecostal doctrines, and it happens now as I question other common beliefs.  I don’t think that Paul intended for his phrase to be used as a cliche to manipulate others into making them stop thinking and wrestling with issues.  This phrase is used to prevent people from having beliefs that the opposing person doesn’t want them to have.  The cliches start flying if we criticize a belief to harshly, especially if it’s something really close to our hearts that we feel we need to defend. Why you might ask?  Well because we may cause someone to stumble.  Someone might look at your disagreement with an issue and see disunity in the body of Christ and cease to follow Christ because of that.

Paul in 1 Corinthians 8 talks about stumbling a bit.  He even shares his views on the issue a little bit.  He thinks that food sacrificed to idols doesn’t really mean anything since these idols aren’t real.  Read this entire chapter and you start to realize that Paul’s command is not to remove all controversial belief.  It is not to be silent about your beliefs.  The point of his letter is to be careful “that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.”  Paul starts this entire part by explaining what his beliefs are on the subject and how the entire argument is kind of ridiculous.  So there is no warning about debating, or even voicing your belief, the warning rather is in what the intentions are.

Paul is teaching directly to those that are rubbing their freedom into the noses of those that don’t find themselves to be as free.  I’ve always had a problem with these verses though because it seems as if Paul is calling people weak to their faces.  If you were reading Paul’s letter and found yourself on the other side of his instruction, wouldn’t you be offended?  I know I would.  I’d be pissed off that my convictions are now the source of my weakness.  However, the letter isn’t really written to the weak ones (I doubt they would even know who they are).  The letter is written to the ones with knowledge of their freedom.  The ones who seem to be absent of love.  Paul is not writing to people to tell them to stop arguing/debating these issues, that wouldn’t make any sense, because he makes his argument in these verses for what he believes.  He is however saying that no matter what you believe on the subject, it isn’t grounds for ruining relationships.

It seems though that this warning by Paul has just been taken too far by us in the church.  Now, we can’t even have the discussion without being accused of being a stumbling block.  It just isn’t true.  Our disagreements and different beliefs are not stumbling blocks.  So I say, have your hard discussions.  You don’t cause someone to stumble simply by holding a belief that is contrary to someone else’s.  In fact, you don’t cause someone to stumble by believing heretical things either.  You cause someone to stumble by putting your beliefs and your freedom in front of relationships.

The next question to ask yourself is this.  Are you the type of person that is “stumbling” every time you disagree with someone?

4 Comments

  • “Someone might look at your disagreement with an issue and see disunity in the body of Christ and cease to follow Christ because of that.” If only that was the biggest reason people dropped Christianity. From my observation, it looks like people who hold tightly to doctrines/theology without being open to disagreement cause more people to leave the fold.
    “You cause someone to stumble by putting your beliefs and your freedom in front of relationships.”
    Well said.

  • love this post nathan – as you might guess this is a prevalent reality for us as we are out speaking about missional engagement with our gay neighbours

  • i took offence and feel stumbled. Remove immediately so the universe will once again be balanced.

  • If telling people what is right or wrong was a stumbling block was wrong or not Biblical, Paul’s writings in his epistles wouldn’t be in the bible we have, as he tells it as it is to often. He tells what sin is and how we know what sin is. That in its self is a stumbling block or at least they say it is for some. I believe there are some that just won’t be happy about what every they hear or read in the Word of God and no matter what you do or say, in your debate with them over issues, they will accuse you of being a stumbling block to them or others. You just have to let them pick and chose what they want to believe and leave their judgment up to God. Blessings, Charles

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