How to be a better person? # 19

STOP STEPPING ON TOES

We are not alike, particularly in strength. The strong among us have a tendency to step on the weaker ones. Jesus had a heart for the little people. He called them “His little ones.” “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin” (Lk. 17:1-2). “And if anyone gives a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward” (Mt. 10:42). When some of the disciples tried to assert themselves, Jesus told them that service was the way to elevation and not being lords or masters over others (Lk. 22:24-26). Apparently, the followers of Jesus did not get the message on equality. The Jerusalem Christians had a severe trouble with the rich trampling on the poor (Ja. 2:1-7). That problem has continued to plague Christians to this day. It was also strengthened by the assumption that material success was an endorsement of God (Mt. 19:29).

The members of the Church in Corinth gave the Apostle Paul more than a headache. He had this warning against those that cause others to fall. “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your behavior. When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall” (I Cor. 8:9-13). For Paul’s people, certain foods used in religious exercises were an issue. For us, certain behaviors have been the cause of many stumbling Christians. And I am not so confident that my boldness in faith has not misled some. Paul had that experience. “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. Everything can be lawful, but not everything is useful. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others” (I Cor. 10:23-24). His own leaders were causing division and hurt. “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly – mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready” (I Cor. 3:1-2). They were stepping on each other, just like we do, that had/has no bearing on the outcome of faith.

The writer to the Hebrews captured for me what I went through. “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and faith in God, instruction about baptism, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so” (Heb. 5:12-6: 3). Before I stick out my toes, how does this description fit into your church? In a Youth for Christ meeting in Edmonton Alberta, Oswald J Smith, Pastor of the People’s Church in Toronto Ontario asked this question: “How many times did Jesus feed the Five Thousand and when will we stop feeding the same people over and over?” This is where I was along with all the others, unaware of being taught the same things over and over.

I was living and studying in a Christian Institute in Edmonton at the time. I attended the High School department but participated in the religious activities. Daily chapels and numerous preachers and teachers hammered us with the basic doctrines of the Church. We were treated like infants being weaned off our mother’s milk. For most of those present, that was how things were supposed to be. Some were nutty and wild, made fun of those that had more serious issues, repented and went on as if nothing ever happened. I was not one of those blessed with a spirit that calmed my conscience. I did not see myself living up or matching up to what Christ should be expecting from me. I was not doing anything, yet I felt like a hypocrite. I could not move past the elementary teachings and instructions but wallowed in repentance by myself. It was incomprehensible to me how these people that kept on stepping on toes could be so content while I was trying to be a better person was so loaded with guilt? I did not feel saved or spirit filled like they claimed they were. I could not move past my own misery and no one was able to tune in on why I could not move on?

During the summer of 1954, a friend took me to his church where I knew many, including the Pastor. The friend had an older friend that at one time went through a similar journey I was going through. He recognized my symptoms and insisted that we come to his home for lunch. The friend that had brought me had the car and I had to be polite and go along. The gentleman wasted no time telling us that he had to make amends for things he had done in the past before his conscience found peace. The Lord would take care of the things he no longer could. Mercy without his willingness to make things right where possible was not operative. This man’s experience opened mine eyes and I knew instantly what I had to do! I had stepped on many toes, including my father’s, and I too began to make amends and restitutions. With every attempt to be reconciled and forgiven, I felt my conscience rising and being at peace with myself. It was the happiest time in my life and I have yet to experience another one like it. Definitely, I feel the need for another lesson on not stepping on toes; for, they may be mine.