Transformation Meditations: 16. The Way is Bumpy
1 Cor 8:13 (NKJV) Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
We finished yesterday with the reminder of Paul’s exhortation in 1 Cor 10:12 together with the awareness that the context was in respect temptations: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind,” (v.13) which rather implies that we all of us suffer temptations from time to time. The downside of that is the likelihood that some of us at least will give way to such temptations and sin.
The apostle John covers that: “I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ.” (1 Jn 2:1) Note his belief that we do not have to sin but it is likely some may from time to time trip over their spiritual feet and sin. In our verse above from 1 Cor 8 it is clear that Paul is exhorting us not to do things that may make a weaker brother or sister stumble spiritually. The NIV puts it more strongly, “causes my brother or sister to fall into sin.”
Now the point that I would make here is that although we may like to think that the Christian path is easy and straight forward, the truth is that often it is far from that and in reality, it appears bumpy involving us stumbling, falling, and restarting. We would much prefer it was not that, but the evidence when observing the Christian community is that that is exactly how it is.
Now we need to be clear here, for we are not talking about apostasy where someone wholeheartedly turns away from Christ, or even backsliding where spiritual momentum ceases and even starts going backwards. The Bible suggests (Heb 6:4-6) for the former of those two that there is not a way back. Backsliding, according to my definition above, can be casual rather than purposeful and this needs an act of will (repentance) to reverse the backward trend. No, we are talking about that experience that is common to any Christian, where we do not get it quite right, think wrongly, speak wrongly and may even act wrongly – carelessly, uncharitably, unkindly, foolishly, one-off things hopefully, but things, when we are honest, we recognize are not right.
The path for such things is always the same, repentance, confessing it and saying sorry to God, and relying upon the work of Christ for forgiveness. But these are the ingredients of this transformation that we have been considering. The good news is that it is not a path where one strike and you’re out! The instruction from Jesus as we saw from the woman caught in adultery is, “Go and sin no more,” (Jn 8:11) which is what must be implied in John’s teaching in 1 Jn 2:1 that we noted above.
Our failures are never to be a time of casual acceptance or even of rejoicing when forgiven, but should be accompanied, I suggest, by a sober if not sombre awareness of our frailty and vulnerability to getting it wrong. The person for whom these words appear alien, is clearly someone who cannot face reality and truth about themselves, but the more we come to realize the security of Jesus’ love for us, the more we may be real about the Christian walk.