Causing Your Brother to Sin
Jesus humbled himself to the state of a slave (Philippians 2:7) when he washed His disciple’s feet (John 13:5), died the death of a slave on the cross, and was initially to be buried with slaves (Isaiah 53:9). It goes without saying that Jesus went out of His way to make salvation available to a people that time and again refused to humble themselves and wash each other’s feet as He did. The key phrases here are “to make salvation available” and “to wash each other’s feet.” These principles are central to this discussion, because salvation is not guaranteed: salvation depends partly on washing each other’s feet (John 13:12-17).
Let us cut the poetry and get to the point. America’s ME driven culture has leached on to some in the church and sucked them dry of life and mission. This leach was fed by the members of the church in Corinth (read 1 Corinthians), and it is currently being fed hand-over-fist by overtly selfish wretches who refuse to deny themselves even the smallest freedoms for the sake of their brothers and sisters. “Selfish wretch” is a strong term, and prototypically, such a person looks no more the role than Jesus looked a king when He was on earth. No, these selfish wretches are exteriorly clean and the poster boy for benevolence at first glance, but inwardly they have rigid limits to their benevolence.
What does a selfish wretch look like more objectively? This is the acclaimed Christian who doesn’t cheat on his wife, goes to church every Sunday morning, and takes food to his neighbors when they are sick. After all this is done, he takes great pleasure in relaxing to a game of cards. There is nothing wrong with a game of cards, so no harm done. Right? However, another brother comes to join the evening relaxation one evening, and that brother is highly offended by card playing. He was raised back in a day when playing cards of any kind was associated with gambling and sin. Jesus or Paul would have humbled themselves and put the cards away for the sake of offending their brother, but not the selfish wretch. No, there is nothing wrong with playing cards, and no one is going to take away this solitary moment of relaxation to do the thing that pleasures him more than anything else. This is a prototype, but this prototype becomes reality too many times for members of the church. The selfish pleasure may not be cards, but frequently a brother is caused to sin, and the culprit is a selfish wretch.
Regarding matters of Christian liberties, Paul devoted five chapters in his epistles (1 Corinthians 8-10 & Romans 14-15). A liberty by definition, is anything a Christian is free to do. A liberty is neither required nor prohibited by Christ’s law, yet all Christian liberties can be identified in the New Testament either implicitly or explicitly, that is, indirectly stated or directly stated. Identifying items of Christian liberty in the New Testament is a greatly abused practice. People often label anything a liberty that they wish to take part in. Such is not the case. Nonetheless, for those things that do apply, the Christian is no better for refraining from those liberties; neither is he the worse for taking part (Romans 14:5). Paul makes these principles clear in his letters to the Corinthians and Romans.
There is a problem still. The problem lies in Christians who become selfish wretches. These individuals will not deny themselves of their Christian liberties for the sake of their brother who is “weak in the faith” (Rom. 14:1) or who “doubts” (14:23) as Paul defines such a one. Instead of being selfish, Paul instructs, “It is evil for the man who eats with offense,” (14:20). Again, “We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification,” (15:1-2). The application is simple. There may be nothing by nature wrong with what you choose to take part in, but if it causes your brother to sin, “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea,” (Mark 9:42). Whether it is the clothes you wear, the place you go, the activities you take part in, or the things you would ordinarily not observe, deny yourself, take up your cross, follow Christ, and wash your brother’s feet. Don’t be a selfish wretch. Be a loving brother.