When I love my brethren as Christ loved me, I will not do anything that might cause them to stumble and be lost. To accomplish this we must have true love for our brethren, forbearance, longsuffering, and patience developed in our lives. Though it is difficult, I may have to refrain from doing something that I know is not condemned in the presence of a brother who, because he does not have knowledge, would be offended.
Consider the issue of eating meat offered to idols in 1 Corinthians 8:1-13. The issue was not whether it was right to eat meat offered to idols or not; eating meat was not condemned. The real issue was that if I have a brother in Christ who does think it is wrong to eat meat offered to idols and I, knowing this, eat meat that is offered to idols (since I know that it is not condemned), that I may encourage my brother to eat in violation of his conscience. I have used my liberty to cause my brother to stumble.
It is not wrong for me to eat meat that has been offered to idols, but my brother who does not have this knowledge, if he eats, will be condemned because he has violated what he believes to be commanded by God. I must not put my brethren into that situation. Note the strong language of Paul in verse 12: “But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.” When doing something that is not wrong, but doing it in the wrong circumstance, I sin against my brethren and Christ. My brother and I may be lost through my knowledge!
Paul’s solution to the problem is if an action will cause my weak brother to stumble, I will not do it. My brother’s conscience is more important than food or anything else that would make him stumble. This sacrifice is a practical application of bearing with one another.
The love of Christ that Christians should have is well described in Colossians 3:12-17. “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved” Therefore connects the previous verses: you have put on the new man and put off the old man, you were raised with Christ, and you are setting your mind on things above. You are the chosen of God (elect) according to your response to His calling through the word of the gospel, 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14. You are holy (sanctified) as God is holy, 1 Peter 1:15-16, and loved by the Father.
“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.” The peace of God is to “umpire” our hearts and direct our lives. When we have peace with God, it is easier to have peace with our brethren, especially those who require more longsuffering. We are unified in one body when we all are ruled by the peace of God and seek the things which make for peace, Romans 14:19.
An example of seeking peace is in 1 Corinthians 6:1-11. I should not take my brother who has wronged me to court, but rather accept the wrong rather than disgrace the name of the Savior and the church before the world. Sometimes we have to “accept the wrong” to make for peace. It is not wrong to confront a brother for an expense resulting from his negligence, but if he will not hear you, or the church, it is better to accept the wrong and let the great Judge, our God, administer justice.
There is an excellent set of articles on the challenges pornography presents to Christians striving to live “soberly, righteously and godly in this present age.” The articles provide a broader definition of pornography that more appropriately describes the lustful images, stories, music and words that surround us. The site is at http://www.cvillechurch.com/TheChristiansBattaleAgainstPorn.htm
Spend time investigating the rest of the site for great articles on a variety of subjects. I would also recommend signing up for their newsletter. It always features a variety of interesting articles.
The most profound advice for romantic relationships is found several times in the Song of Solomon. The phrase “do not awaken love until it pleases” is used within the Song as an encouragement to others and a reminder to be patient in one’s own relationship. What does this phrase mean?
Love can be compared to a lovely flower that blooms beautiful in its proper season. No amount of sunlight, water, or nutrients can force the flower to bloom before its time. Attempts to physically force the flower from the bud will only damage or destroy it. However, if you provide the nutrients and proper environment the flower will bloom beautifully on its own and often at an unexpected, unobserved time.
Consider some common mistakes in failing to “awaken love until it pleases:”
- Trying to force a romantic relationship. I have known frustrated people who liked someone then relentlessly pursued them trying to make them fall in love. They usually repelled the person instead. Usually the other person feels like prey in a predator’s shadow instead of flattered by the attention. A manipulative person might take advantage of the pursuer, acting interested to get what they want from the desparate person, then dropping them when they are finished playing.
- Changing oneself to please another. When you try to change who you are to appeal to someone you are infatuated with, you are trying to force the flower open. Ultimately the relationship is destined to dissatisfaction, unhappiness, and failure because you will tire of playing the part and long to be yourself again. When you revert to yourself the other person will feel deceived and hurt that you could not be honest with them. They will probably be uninterested since they fell in love with a character you were playing–not you.
- Settling for someone. Sometimes people will decide to “fall in love” or marry someone because they either dated for a long time or because they are older and “there aren’t many available men/women.” There is no predetermined time or natural law that states when people will fall in love. How sad it would be to just marry someone because of habit or fear then meet someone that would be the ideal spouse. If you have dated someone for years and you are often fighting or have no deep love for the person, spare yourselves future heartache and damage and break off the relationship so you can be ready to meet someone with whom love can bloom.
- Rushing physical expressions of love. True love develops through friendship, not the passionate scenes of Hollywood productions. Couples should not feel pressure to hold hands, kiss, or show other physical signs of affection. In fact, it is healthy to hold off on any physical expressions while you let the relationship develop. When the physical expressions of love are introduced sometimes they become the focus to the neglect of the non-physical and the pressure to escalate the physical aspects of the relationship intensifies.
- Sex before marriage. Some feel that if they give in dating what should only be given in marriage, that they will win the heart of their love interest. Statistically, it has the opposite effect. As with the one trying to force a relationship, a user will play on this tendency and get what they want until they are bored or an opportunity with someone else arises. God gave the sexual relationship for marriage to bind the couple closer together but the secret to its power is the ’til-death-do-you-part commitment between the husband and wife. Keeping this relationship for marriage alone will allow it to blossom and grow: a special flower for the husband and wife alone.
True love is more beautiful than any flower but it must be allowed to grow and bloom in its own time. “Do not awaken love until it pleases.” Be patient and enjoy the friendship until the love blooms then take care of it like a precious tender plant.