What it means to put a stumbling block in the way of a brother


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. (Romans 14:13)

In other words, let’s get out of the habit of criticizing one another.  This criticizing can put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother, because by criticizing them, we might cause them to violate their conscience. 

It’s important to remember that when Paul forbids judging, he’s not talking about our not calling a sin a sin.  The context is about Jewish dietary restrictions and holy days.  These ideas were troubling many Christians.  

But we can’t use this verse to suggest that Christians are free to do whatever they want.  They can do whatever they want as long as it isn’t sin.  The key here is that sometimes, more mature Christians understand what they are free to do in Christ, and they are not to flaunt that to others, maybe causing them to stumble.  Paul writes in 1 Corinthians, take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.  

Does this all mean that a Christian shouldn’t have meat sacrificed to idols if it would cause their brother to stumble?  Or let’s consider a modern example.  Can we drink a beer?  What if a brother is convinced that we shouldn’t drink?  We’re not to cause that brother to stumble.  Let’s see what that means.  

According to this passage, causing him to stumble means encouraging him to drink even though it would violate his conscience.  If we were to try to convince him to drink when he’s convinced it’s sin, then we’re trying to convince him to sin.  So, it’s not about having a biblical dialogue on drinking, or even drinking in front of the brother, but rather trying to get them to drink with us.  That’s what it means to cause him to stumble.  

So, in matters of opinion, the stronger brother is not to try to convince the weaker to violate his own conscience, and the weaker brother should not pass judgment on the stronger brother.  


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