I am night blind. Years ago, I took my dog for a long walk right around dusk. It was summer, and I live in Florida, so I wore the standard-issue sleeveless top and shorts. Each of these points is important, people, because of what happened next.
Before I even realized what was happening, my foot caught in a bike ramp made of fresh wood that blended in with the sidewalk at dusk (if you’re night blind, that is), and I became airborne – until I wasn’t. There I was, face-planted on the sidewalk with blood coming from the gashes and scrapes that covered all my exposed skin (thus the importance of my clothing).
I walked around looking like the bride of Frankenstein for several weeks. I was so bad, in fact, that a police officer in our neighborhood was convinced my husband had beaten me. I had to explain that a bike ramp was the culprit. “Uh-huh,” he seemed to say with his dubious gaze.
I’m clumsy like that, which is pretty ironic for a former cheerleader and athlete. On our property, I’m constantly asking my sons to pick up yard debris because it seems to fly up and hit me in the ankles. They swear I’m the only person to whom it happens, even when I show them the wounds. Someone please give me some love here and tell me I’m not alone.
My point is this: Just as things that cause us to stumble in my flesh – in my case, bike ramps and twigs – may not be issues for others, so it goes with our spiritual walks. We have tremendous freedom in Christ, as the early church fathers found in the book of Acts, but we also have to be careful not to become stumbling blocks for others. (See Acts 15 for a great example of this principle.)
“We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way, by great endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor; through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.” – 2 Corinthians 6:3-10
For example, many Christians choose to drink alcohol. I do not. I don’t abstain because I believe it’s wrong to have a glass of wine with a meal occasionally; I abstain because I don’t want to give someone else the wrong impression. To a fellow believer, that wrong impression could be that I have no conviction whatsoever about alcohol, which could lead to that person’s harm. To an unbeliever, I could appear at a glance just like everyone else in the world, which I’m not. By abstaining, I don’t harm my witness or encourage others to do the same. And by abstaining, I do not risk maligning the name of Christ, which is a far more compelling reason than any other.
Here’s another example: I won’t be alone with a member of the opposite sex to whom I am unrelated, even for a business meeting, unless a door is wide open and people are there to witness what is transpiring. This includes, of course, business lunches. Similarly, I dress modestly. My wardrobe is a cleavage-free zone. And yes, it is possible to look attractive and modest at the same time. I recommend more people find that out for themselves.
I also try to be careful about inappropriate humor or discussing anything unsavory in a way that could cause someone to dwell upon it. That includes commenting about offensive billboards that line I-75 from Florida into Georgia – no matter how much I may want to spout off about them – or remarking about the full parking lot at a local men’s club. Why poison my mind – and someone else’s – with that refuse?
My dear friends, if you love Christ, be sensitive to your witness at all times. Unbelievers and believers alike are watching you. Let it be Christ that they see.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about those things.” – Philippians 4:8
I’ll be sure to document my next twig-related injury.