A Stumbling Block? by Randy Rowley 6/10/19 ©


On a Saturday in mid-September, my SUV croaked about 100 feet from a clinic in East Austin.  Fortunately, I was able to push it into the parking lot.  The next afternoon as I waited on a wrecker to pick up my SUV, I listened to shotguns blasting in the distance.  After the wrecker left, I went hunting for the source of the shotgun blasts and found it – it was at least 20 hunters in a field off of Exchange Blvd. in Austin, shooting at dove.

I called the police to report people hunting within the city limits when I got home.  However, the officer informed me that Exchange Blvd. was the city limit and the field (on the west side of the street) was outside the city limits.  I verified this information with a Travis County sheriff’s deputy, who informed me that the Hardin Corporation owned the field and allowed hunters without written permission.

I related the story to Bill Smith, and we decided to try the field.  We hunted there the following Saturday afternoon but only bagged one bird, and hunted the Saturday morning after that but didn’t improve our tally much.  Believing the dove had moved on, I forgot about the field.  However, a few days later, Bill told me he’d gone to the field for a solo morning hunt and bagged seven birds.  We made plans to hunt there again the following Saturday morning.

As we waited in the field on that cool morning for legal shooting time, a white pickup drove slowly by us and then sped away.  It returned from the opposite direction a short time later and hit a curb before it sped away.  Thinking we’d seen an early morning drunk, we paid it no mind.

Finally, it was legal shooting time.  For about ten minutes, the action was furious, but then it died down.

During the break in the action, I heard a vehicle driving down the road, turned, and saw an Austin police cruiser slowing down.  I tried to alert Bill, who was 75 yards away, of this development, but he was blasting away at a large flock of dove flying toward him.  Then, a flock of at least 20 birds flew directly over me.  However, I didn’t shoot as I didn’t want the officer to see me shooting if the officer and deputy I talked to previously had been wrong about the field not being within the city limits.

Immediately after the flock flew over me, we heard a woman shout, “Gentlemen, put your guns down, put your hands up where I can see them, and come over here!” We complied and discovered the source of the command – an Austin police officer.  She had positioned herself behind her cruiser and had her hand on the butt of her service revolver but had not drawn it.  Bill and I walked straight to her.

She instructed us to keep our hands up and asked why we thought we could hunt within the city’s limits.  While she was questioning us, a second officer and the white pickup driver, a Roadway security guard, joined her.   Our presence had alarmed the guard as he drove by, and he had called the police.

We answered their questions politely.  The officers checked our story out and found it to be accurate.  The security guard said we’d shot at Roadway vehicles and employees a week before, during the evening.  I responded that we were hunting in the opposite direction from Roadway that morning (as the first officer saw when she arrived), Roadway’s vehicles and employees were way out of the range of our shotguns, and we hadn’t hunted there the evening in question.  The officers told us that although we weren’t hunting illegally, they could charge us with being public nuisances, and maybe we should find somewhere not so close to a business to hunt.  Relieved we weren’t going to jail, we didn’t argue and packed up and left.

I decided not to mention possibly returning to Bill, as I did not want to be a source of temptation or a stumbling block to him.  (We couldn’t return now, even if we wanted to, as several businesses are located where the field used to be.)

1 Corinthians 8:9-13 says, “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.  For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols?  So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge.  When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.  Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.”

Paul was addressing a specific issue the Corinthian church was dealing with – some Christians were eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols.  Other believers had a problem with this.  Paul made it clear in 1 Corinthians 8:4-8 that idols couldn’t compete with God because there is no other God than him.

The Corinthian Christians eating meat at pagan temples based their practices on correct doctrine (idols had no significance), but not all Corinthian believers understood this. Paul’s response was to ask the Corinthian Christians who knew there wasn’t anything significant to idols to remember that not all believers knew that.  If believers, who formerly had a background of worshipping idols, were to see them eat such meat and then partook, they would have acted against their consciences, as they thought eating food offered to idols was akin to idol worship.

Paul implored the more knowledgeable believers to consider the rights of their weaker/less knowledgeable brothers in Christ.  They became a stumbling block to those who didn’t partake in eating such meat by exercising their right to eat it—and ignoring that fact offended Jesus.  Paul was clear that our actions must never be based only on what we know is right – we must also account for how we treat fellow believers.

Paul also addressed legalism in Galatians 2:1-21.  He conveyed that Peter was forcing Gentiles to follow Jewish customs and laws to be justified in Antioch.  Paul confronted and sharply rebuked Peter about his legalism.  Even if Jewish Christians had told these Gentile Christians that their disobeying Jewish customs and laws was causing them to stumble, Paul would have responded that the Gentile Christians weren’t tempting them to sin.  Instead, it would be the Jewish Christians’ legalism that was being offended.  Paul couldn’t care less about offending legalism, and neither should we.

Today we see legalism in many forms.  Examples include:

  • You shouldn’t buy an expensive gun, go on safari in Africa, or wear a fishing shirt to church.
  • You shouldn’t go to watch the new Star Wars movie, listen to country music, or allow your kids to read Harry Potter.
  • You shouldn’t eat steak, get a tattoo, or go to the rodeo.
  • You shouldn’t allow women to join FCS – it’s a men’s club.

If we do those things, we might cause someone who thinks they’re wrong to stumble.  And we wouldn’t want to cause someone to stumble, would we?

Unfortunately, such exchanges between Christians occur too often.  We don’t do certain things because we’re scared we might become a stumbling block.  Or believers tell fellow Christians not to do particular things the Bible doesn’t discuss because they might become a stumbling block to other believers (e.g., Christians shouldn’t date).

We must realize that doing things others think is wrong, that the Bible doesn’t clearly describe as sin, doesn’t make us a stumbling block.  Certainly, we must confess our sin to God when we sin and repent (turn from the direction we were heading and turn to God) (see 1 John 1:9 and Acts 3:19).  But I’m discussing gray areas here and not sin.  If I do something that’s clearly not a sin according to the Bible and legalistic Christians have a problem with it, I’m not a stumbling block to them.

Take my previous example of Christians who think we shouldn’t wear a fishing shirt to church – I have no problem wearing casual clothes to church on most occasions, as I see it as a more authentic approach to God.  Also, Jesus didn’t wear fancy clothes when he went to synagogues.  However, other Christians feel that wearing casual clothes to church displays an irreverent attitude toward God.  But no matter how thoroughly they search the Bible, they can’t find where God entered the debate.  Do I have to stop wearing casual clothes because they think I’m sinning?  No, the Bible allows casual clothes, so my clothing choice doesn’t create a stumbling block for them, nor is it a source of temptation.  Their legalism is the issue; they should repent, confess their sin to God, and stop what they’re doing.

If you’re concerned you might be a stumbling block to other Christians, prayerfully and honestly examine your behavior in the light of God’s word.  If you’re being a stumbling block – repent, confess your sin to God, and stop what you’re doing, at least in weak/less knowledgeable believers’ presence.

If you’re concerned that you might be a stumbling block to other Christians and cause them to sin, prayerfully and honestly examine your behavior in the light of God’s word.  If you’re being a stumbling block or causing another believer to sin – repent, confess your sin to God, and stop what you’re doing, at least in weak/less knowledgeable believers’ presence.  But stay your course if you’re not being a stumbling block or tempting other believers to sin according to the Bible, and their legalism is what’s offended.

Categories : Devotionals

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Today’s Devotionals and Blogs

Kent Crockett’s blog – www.kentcrockett.blogspot.com

Mark Dillow’s blog – http://noclearline.blogspot.com/

Bible Verse of the Day

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.