How Do We Make Each Other Stumble and How Can We Avoid It?
Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. . . . For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. . . . Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. - Romans 14:13-18, ESV
What in the world do manners and formal dress have to do with today's passage? Nothing, really, I just wanted to vent.
Actually, there's more of a connection than we might guess. Thinking about manners and the way we dress forces us to think about other people: What are their expectations? What would make them feel respected or feel comfortable around me?
A consideration for the perspectives, expectations and comfort of others is actually vital to living as a Gospel community in the church. In the church, different people have different convictions and scruples about certain issues, as we discussed yesterday. I don't have to live according to someone else's convictions about secondary issues, but I cannot judge them for having different convictions and I also cannot trample on their convictions due to a selfish, thoughtless rudeness.
What are the consequences of my trampling on someone else's conviction? I might lead them to violate their conscience, act out of rebellion and not out of faith, and so disturb their peace and upset their walk with the Lord.
Here's a good example: Let's say I have a brother who cannot drink alcohol, for whatever reason. Maybe he's convinced it would be a sin or maybe he's a recovering alcoholic. I don't have to quit drinking alcohol because of his conviction, but I need to avoid putting him in a situation where he might be forced to drink alcohol by social pressure or by my direct urging. If he's convinced drinking alcohol is a sin, I can gently instruct him from the Scripture to help him see that it isn't. But until he sincerely comes to see that for himself, drinking alcohol would be a sin for him, because it would not be an act of faith and obedience but an act of rebellion.
We need to live more considerate lives. This includes being careful what we share on social media and what we encourage other people to do. Doing so shows love to our brothers and sisters in Christ and help builds up the body in unity and peace.