Do You Let Others Stumble You?
HE WAS a man of European extraction—evidently honest, modest, and having a love for the truth. When the Christian witnesses of Jehovah called at his home in New York city they found hearing ears in both him and his wife. Soon they were enjoying a regular weekly Bible study in their home.
But then something happened. One who purportedly was a Witness and whom this newly interested man held in high esteem committed a serious wrong for which he was expelled from the Christian congregation. The conduct of the wrongdoer so disappointed the man that he stumbled and fell, discontinuing his study of the Bible with the Witnesses. But not so his wife. She continued her studies, was baptized, and reared two sons, both of whom today, many years later, are full-time preachers of the good news of God’s kingdom. Often she joins them for a month at a time in such joyous and highly rewarding preaching and Bible-teaching activities. As for the husband, he is still on the fence, pleased to meet the Witnesses and occasionally attending meetings, but still offended, stumbled.
This true-life story underscores the tragedy of letting others stumble us. Think about this. Reflect. Consider. Just because someone makes a mistake, whether great or small, it is no reason for you to take an unwise course, is it? Why harm yourself just because someone else did something that offended or hurt you?
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, left us a model in this, even as he did in ever so many other respects. (1 Pet. 2:21) Did he get offended, did he stumble because one of his own apostles, Judas, turned traitor, because another one, Peter, three times denied even knowing him, or because all of them deserted him in time of danger? Did he? How unwise that would have been! Not only would he have harmed himself immeasurably but also he would have harmed the cause of his heavenly Father and all humankind!
More serious than the injury to ourselves and others when we allow people to stumble us is our failure to do what is right in God’s sight. “He has told you, O earthling man, what is good. And what is Jehovah asking back from you but to exercise justice and to love kindness and to be modest in walking with your God?” No matter what any other person may or may not do, such is no excuse for our not paying back to God what he asks of us.—Mic. 6:8.
To illustrate: The inhabitants of a country have the obligation to obey its laws, including the paying of taxes and observing of traffic regulations. Suppose a citizen is defrauded, robbed or in some other way dealt with unjustly by fellow citizens. Could he use that as an excuse to break whatever laws of the land he chose to break, refusing to pay taxes and ignoring traffic regulations? While a few today may so hold, for all to do so would be anarchy. The two things are wholly unrelated and have no bearing upon each other as far as obligations are concerned.
All that a citizen can do is to seek redress at law and then leave it up to the government to punish wrongdoers while he himself obeys the laws of the land. And so with our relationship with God, our Creator. We are under obligation to obey his commands and leave the settling of accounts with him. As the apostle Paul counseled: “Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but yield place to the wrath; for it is written: ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says Jehovah.’” Jesus Christ likewise assures us that, in God’s due time, He will right all wrongs, saying: “Woe to the man through whom the stumbling block comes!”—Rom. 12:19; Matt. 18:7.
Another point: To let others stumble us is unloving. It betrays a lack of love for God and for what he has done for us. How much we should appreciate all he has done for us in giving us life and providing all the necessities for sustaining life! And think of the gift of his only-begotten Son, through whom we can hope to gain everlasting life! (John 3:16) Surely we should do everything possible to show our appreciation for all God’s loving-kindness toward us!
Further, if we truly have love for God and his law, then nothing will stumble us. The Bible says: “Abundant peace belongs to those loving your law, and for them there is no stumbling block.”—Ps. 119:165.
Frequently, the words or acts that may offend a person are not of such a nature that any thought is given to expelling the inconsiderate one from the congregation. After all, as King Solomon said in his temple dedication prayer, “there is no man that does not sin.” If God took note of all our imperfections and mistakes, where would any of us be? Yes, “if errors were what you watch, O Jah, O Jehovah, who could stand?”—1 Ki. 8:46; Ps. 130:3.
We ought to deal with others as we want God to deal with us. If we let others stumble us, we are not being forgiving, and if we do not forgive others their transgressions, neither can we expect our heavenly Father to forgive us ours. (Matt. 5:7; 6:14, 15; 18:21-35) On the other hand, if we have love for the members of our families and/or for our fellow worshipers, we will not dwell on their shortcomings but “have intense love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”—1 Pet. 4:8.
In particular may those who profess to be truly Christ’s disciples not use what others have done as an excuse to stop studying God’s Word, to stop associating with fellow Christians, to stop sharing in making known the good news of God’s kingdom. Really, if they let what others do keep them from carrying out these Christian requirements, they make questionable the genuineness of their profession to be truly Christ’s disciples. For such to stumble would make them suspect as looking for an excuse, consciously or unconsciously, to serve God no longer.
Not only do we want to be careful that we do not let others stumble us, but we lovingly and wisely want to exercise care that we do not stumble others. Justice requires that we do to others as we would have them do to us. (Luke 6:31) We would not want anyone to be careless or thoughtless as to stumbling us, would we? Then we should exercise care that we do not stumble others. For example, a letter recently received by the Watch Tower Society complained that some immature persons were being stumbled because others to whom they looked as examples flaunted their fondness of liquor. Pursuing such a course in the use of liquor was not heeding the counsel of the apostle Paul: “Keep making straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather that it may be healed.” Besides, Jesus warned: “Whoever stumbles one of these little ones who put faith in me, it is more beneficial for him to have hung around his neck a millstone such as is turned by an ass and to be sunk in the wide, open sea.” Surely none of us would want that to happen to us, would we?—Heb. 12:13; Matt. 18:6.
So let all exercise care to do what is wise, loving and right, thereby keeping both from being stumbled by others and from themselves stumbling others.