As Christians, we are called to live our lives in a way that builds up and encourages our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. One important principle found throughout Scripture is that we should be careful not to cause others to stumble in their faith. But what exactly does this mean? And how can we apply this teaching to our daily lives?
What Does “Causing Your Brother to Stumble” Refer to?
“It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.” (Romans 14:21 NKJV)
“Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.” (Romans 14:13 NKJV)
“But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.” (1 Corinthians 8:9 NKJV)
These verses make it clear that causing your brother to stumble has to do with influencing fellow Christians to act against their conscience or hindering their walk with God. It involves putting pressures or temptations in front of them that might draw them away from their faith or be spiritually damaging to them.
Some examples of causing your brother to stumble could include:
- Encouraging them to participate in activities they personally believe are sinful
- Exposing them to entertainment or influences that promote ungodly values
- Flaunting your “liberty” in areas that they are sensitive about or struggling with
- Putting a relationship with you above their devotion to God
- Causing divisions, quarrels, and dissension within the church
The overall idea is that you should be thoughtful about how your words, choices, and actions affect other Christians, particularly new or weak believers. You do not want to be a stumbling block that trips them up in their faith.
Why is This Important?
There are a few key reasons why it is so important for Christians to be mindful of not causing others to stumble:
1. It can shipwreck their faith
New believers or Christians struggling with sin can be especially vulnerable to losing their footing when faced with temptations and bad influences. If another Christian leads them down the wrong path, it could derail their relationship with God altogether. We have a responsibility to help our brothers and sisters stay on track in their walk of faith.
2. It hurts Christ’s mission
When those claiming to follow Christ are leading others away from Him, it seriously damages the reputation of the church and the spread of the Gospel. Their stumbling block may turn people completely away from Christianity.
3. It shows disregard for others
When we flaunt our freedom without caring how it affects fellow believers, it shows a lack of love and respect for their conscience before God. We are called to lay down our own interests in service of others, not put stumbling blocks in their way.
4. We will be judged
Scripture sternly warns that anyone who causes a brother to stumble will be judged by God. Jesus said it would be better to have a millstone hung around your neck and be drowned than to cause little ones to stumble (Matthew 18:6). This principle applies on an individual level and for the church as a whole.
As followers of Christ, we have a solemn responsibility not to be an obstacle to the faith of others. All it takes is a careless word, post online, or sinful lifestyle to turn a brother or sister away from the truth. We must be vigilant and thoughtful in how we conduct ourselves.
How to Avoid Causing Your Brother to Stumble
So when it comes to your everyday life, what practical steps can you take to avoid placing stumbling blocks in the way of fellow Christians? Here are some suggestions:
Watch your conduct around other believers
Be thoughtful about how you dress, the media you consume, the way you spend your time and money, and the jokes you tell when you are with fellow Christians. Don’t flaunt liberties that could make them uncomfortable or tempt them toward sin. Your good should not be spoken of as evil (Romans 14:16).
Limit and discern your freedoms
Prayerfully examine activities you participate in such as drinking alcohol, certain movies/music, or personal relationships. Consider limiting freedoms that may be unnecessarily tempting or offensive to others. While you may have personal freedom, conscientiously lay down your rights for sake of weaker believers.
Filter your social media use
Anything you post, like, or share publicly can be seen by your brothers and sisters in Christ. Make sure your social media habits are above reproach and will not lead others into sin. Also beware of digitally following influencers who may spread unbiblical ideologies.
Choose your dating relationship wisely
If you are in a dating relationship with an unbeliever or nominal Christian, you may unwittingly cause them to stumble further from faith. Seek advice from mature believers if you are unequally yoked. Your romantic partner has huge influence over your spiritual state.
Avoid flaunting controversial viewpoints
Some matters of doctrine and Christian practice are not directly addressed in Scripture and have room for debate. Be careful not to force your own convictions on others or zealously argue for your views. This can divide the church and pressure people towards your perspective.
Focus conversations on edification
Keep your conversations purposeful, wholesome, and centered on Christ (Ephesians 4:29). Avoid gossip, slander, course joking, doctrinal tangents, or excessive venting that drags others down. Seek to build others up when you speak.
Lead others to God, not away from Him
Before making choices that could impact fellow believers, ask yourself if this will lead them closer to God or not. If there is any question that it could hinder their faith, err on the side of caution. We should always act in love, not selfishness.
What if a Brother is Stumbling in Legalism?
An important related question is how to handle situations when a fellow Christian is stumbling in legalism – binding their conscience to manmade rules not actually found in the Bible. How should you respond if their extra-biblical standards are being placed on you?
You should first seek to understand where they are coming from. Have patience and speak the truth in love when discussing these matters. Correct their misconceptions about what Scripture actually says with compassion.
Remind them that they stand before God according to their own conscience, not yours. Their faith must be grounded in God’s word, not the doctrines of men (Colossians 2:20-23). Offer grace and freedom from imposed religiosity.
At the same time, for the sake of unity you may need to willingly limit your behavior out of deference to the sensitive conscience of your brother. You have the freedom to demonstrate sacrificial love through your actions, while correcting false teaching.
If conducted with sincerity and humility on both sides, this process can help brothers and sisters in Christ move past legalism into a relationship founded on grace, truth, wisdom, and understanding. The body of Christ is strengthened when stumbling blocks of law are removed.
How Can Churches Prevent Stumbling Blocks?
For church leaders, it is also vital to be aware of stumbling blocks that hinder the faith of those under their spiritual care. Here are some suggestions for how churches can proactively prevent causing others to stumble:
- Preach and teach sound doctrine that aligns with Scripture. Correct false and legalistic teaching that binds consciences.
- Allow freedom in debatable matters of conscience. Don’t impose specific rules not commanded in the Bible.
- Equip members to think biblically and exercise their freedoms responsibly.
- Foster a culture of humility, grace, and spiritual maturity within the church body.
- Have open, loving conversations when members have differences in biblical interpretation.
- Be thoughtful about influences promoted within kids and youth ministries. Keep media and entertainment God-honoring.
- Evaluate if any church facilities, events, or advertising could expose people to temptations or offensive content.
- Encourage members to remove stumbling blocks in their own lives that could negatively impact others in the church.
- Have accountability partners, mentoring programs, or support groups to aid members struggling with sin or faith issues.
- When sin issues arise, follow the Biblical process of gentle correction, rebuke, and restoration to bring people back on track.
Churches play a key role in guiding believers away from stumbling blocks and into greater spiritual maturity in Christ.
Key Takeaways on Causing Your Brother to Stumble
To sum up, here are some key principles to remember about causing your brother to stumble:
- Causing another Christian to stumble means influencing them toward sinful choices or hindering their relationship with God.
- We must be careful how our actions or freedoms affect the conscience of fellow believers, especially new or weak Christians.
- Causing others to stumble can shipwreck faith, hurt evangelism, show disrespect, and bring God’s discipline.
- Christians should limit and discern their liberties, filter media choices, conduct themselves wisely around others, and focus on edification in speech.
- Legalistic standards not actually founded on Scripture should be corrected lovingly with God’s truth while respecting their conscience.
- Churches play a vital role in fostering an environment where stumbling blocks to faith are identified and removed.
The body of Christ is strengthened when believers walk in humility, grace, wisdom, and discernment – not placing hindrances in the spiritual journeys of their brothers and sisters. As we grow in unity and sound doctrine, we shine the light of Christ in a fallen world.
May we take seriously the Bible’s call to avoid causing others to stumble. Let our lives honor God and point others to Him.