“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.”
I did not realize until I got the lesson sent to me that I had missed a part of it. I did something weird on my computer, and I ended up creating a ‘read-only’ document; and well, the rest is history. But the more I think of it, the more I am glad that I messed up. We live in a selfish time; we live in a time when people want to live the way they want and they don’t care how it affects others. Live and let live, they say. But this is not how the human system works. We are intertwined and no more so than in the church family. Even as a pastor I need to understand there are no superstars in the ministry; we all just serve the Lord and each other.
I write these lessons, then I send them to an editor who reads, corrects and publishes them for me to the direct email list for the church, a few hundred, I think. One of those few hundred is the editor for the Raptor Ready website; she sends me an email each Saturday that she ‘Got it’; she then does her work, and on Tuesday the lesson is posted to Rapture Ready. It takes a team of dedicated and committed persons to get one article out.
In the secular world, I also work selling cars, and the team does the work. I sell cars, a Manager lets the client know when the car will be ready, the Service department inspects the cars, even the new ones, the Lot Manager makes sure they get to the Detail station and get fueled, then they are brought back and the client gets their car. It takes a team, and no one is more important than the other. We simply serve in different capacities to get to the same destination; the car leaves with a customer, only then do we actually get paid.
I was reading in the book of Luke this week, Luke 24:46. Jesus reminded His disciples that it was ‘necessary’ for Him to suffer. Why? For Himself? NO!! For us. Jesus came to die for us. He did it all for us, at His cost and because He loves us. Jesus took responsibility for us, even the ones who reject Him; He has done all He can for them. No one will be able to accuse Jesus of not giving His all for others. In the story of the ‘Good Samaritan,’ in Luke 10:25-37, the Good Samaritan took responsibility for the man who was injured and made sure he had all he needed to recover. Often, we look at sin as what we committed, but sin can also be what we omitted. The religious leaders saw the need of the man and did nothing. Their indifference is sin, and so is our indifference to others around us, especially to our family in the Lord.
- Don’t Be a Stumbling Block to People
It is hard enough to make a decision to follow Jesus and to look like an idiot to the outside world. It does not need to be made harder by unloving and self-righteous people inside the local church as well. Think of your local church as an ICU ward for your community. The local drunks know to come for food, the local ladies of the night know to come for shelter from the hardened pimp, the local mom with the seven kids and no husband and no fathers involved know to come and get some free babysitting, and on and on we can go. If we do church right, we will get dirty, we will see the dregs of society and win them to Jesus. We will be seen with sinners and tax collectors and questionable women caught in adultery, or by the roadside on her 5th husband and not liked by all the other women in the town. If it were not for the grace of God, we could be one of these people.
How many of us were one decision away from following the wrong crowd, choosing the wrong friend? I heard the testimony of a friend who tried to kill himself one night with a gun. It misfired or jammed, and the next night he was saved; now he is a pastor. The work of the ministry is one of being kind and loving, patient and loving, gracious and loving, merciful and loving, giving and loving, loving and loving. It is giving of yourself first and then of your stuff. It means that you and I will endeavor to build the bridge even when we have been wronged, and we will bear the burden when others have been wronged. And if you recall the account of Philemon, Paul told them to lay another’s charge to his account. We bear the burden even when others have wronged our brothers in the Lord. The idea is that we are to be ready to serve our fellow brothers and sisters even at our own expense and with joy.
We are to do all we can to bring them to maturity and strength in Jesus so they in turn can duplicate the process and help others mature. When a doctor takes the Hippocratic oath, there is a phrase in which they promise to ‘do no harm.’ Maybe we should have that in the Lord’s churches as well. We need to mature to the point where we no longer get offended and no longer offend. We should do all we can to build up and not tear down. Always ask ourselves is what I am saying going to build or tear down this person? And then, ask is the tone of voice I am using, the words I am saying, and the emotion I am expressing leading them to believe that I am building them up or tearing them down.
There are times to be stern; Jesus was at times. He was stern especially with religious hypocrites, but He was gentle with sinners and the broken. Mature Christians will know this and live this as well. I pray that I am not a stumbling block to my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and especially not to young preachers as they enter the ministry.
- Christianity/Church is about others
One of the hardest idols to tear down is ME! Man, do I like to worship Me. So many people leave a church because they come to be served rather than to be servants. They attend asking what can I get from here? rather than asking what can I invest? What can I contribute to this local church body? To whom has the Lord sent me? If everyone had that mentality, then we would have a lot less transient Christians; they would stay and fill needs rather than create them. They would live for others rather than self.
This church has no youth group, so rather than create one and begin to minister to my kid’s friends, we will go find a church with the Youth Program already running. This is the same kind of indifference that the religious men showed to the injured man who fell among thieves in the account of the Good Samaritan. There was a need; they just did not want to fill it. They were stumbling blocks to this man’s recovery.
Too many of us are stumbling blocks to our fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord because we just don’t want to get our hands dirty. We just don’t want to upset our routine, upset our schedule, upset our plans, and you know, just maybe he got attacked by thieves because he is a sinner, and God was judging him, and who am I to get in the way of the Lord’s judgment? Notice that Paul begins the verse in Romans 14:13 by telling us not to judge one another anymore. This simply means to think the best of each other; this man is in need; it is not God judging him. If we had been 30 minutes earlier in this way, it may have been us lying on the ground injured. Would we want this man to walk by or stop and help?
I will confess that being a servant is not always easy to do. The other night driving home, I passed a young man with a broken-down motorcycle. I did not want to stop, I was like the religious men, and I drove by. But the Lord kept telling me to go back, and I did. I was able to drive him home. He lives just a few minutes from my house. I was able to tell him that Jesus loves him as he was getting out of the car.
I don’t want you to think that I am looking down on you if you have passed by a person in need or because you know a need exists but have not filled it. I want us to all grow more and grow better into the image of Jesus so that our local churches are stronger, better and more compassionate to meet the need of all that Jesus will send our way. I want us to listen to the Holy Spirit telling us to stop, help, serve and make a difference.
As pastors, our job is to serve others. Too many try to lord it over their congregation, but the primary role of a pastor is the head servant. He is the under-shepherd to the Lord, and as such, he is simply there to feed, care for and protect the sheep, the Lord’s sheep. We do not live for ourselves, whether in our families or in the local church or in our communities. We live to serve others; we serve the lost to get them to Jesus, and we serve the saved to help them grow in Jesus. Paul puts it this way in Philippians 2: 1-4,
“Therefore, if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests but also for the interests of others.”
Paul is clearly telling us to take responsibility for each other. We are not to be busybodies in each other’s business but we are to respond to clear needs and not be indifferent to the hurts of our brothers and sisters in the Lord. Take care of them, even when it costs me something to get them back on their feet. Serve each other joyfully, thinking the best of each other. Sadly, we need to put ourselves out of the way. We have to put our schedules and our plans out of the way so we can see others and serve them. The Good Samaritan had places to go, I am sure, but that destination was not more important than the person in front of him.
The idea of being a servant is not revered in much in North America. We want to lead, to be the hero and to make a name for ourselves. I will remind you that most people in the world, even lost people, know about the story of the Good Samaritan, but no one knows his name; however, God does. He is the only one that needs to know your name. He is the only one, other than the person you help, that needs to know what you are doing or did.
We are told by Paul to live in lowliness of mind. To see ourselves as no one, as nothing, as no names and of no reputation. This will give us the right frame of mind and the right attitude to serve and do so lovingly and graciously for the sole benefit of others. We should do all that we can to not be a stumbling block to others, whether they be outside the family of God looking in or especially if they are in the family of God. We are to take responsibility for each other.
God bless you,
Dr. Sean Gooding
Pastor of Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church
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