I used to tell my boys, “Be aware of how what you’re doing affects others.” My point in telling them this began with simply having good manners in public places, but I also wanted them to understand that their attitudes, actions, and words always impact others in some way.
We also talked about preferring others and being willing to do what another wants for the sake of the relationship. They seemed to understand that putting aside personal preference is often one of the most powerful ways to build a relationship.
I wish I could say that these talks came from me simply wanting to share biblical truth with my boys, but my purpose really went much deeper and was far more personal. You see, I too struggled with being aware of how I impacted others with my moods, preferences, and habits. I too had comfort zones that caused me to overlook some people. I also all too often let my feelings and preferences determine my actions at the cost of relationship.
This challenge that I often issued to my boys while they were growing up also challenged me. It still does because I still struggle with it.
Tripping & Stumbling
In 1 Corinthians 8:9, Paul speaks to setting aside preferences in order to not be a barrier to others seeing Christ, and in Romans 14:13 he speaks to a determination to constantly monitor the effect of your behavior on others. What both of these scriptures get at is that we must do what we can to not place a stumbling block in another’s path.
We don’t actually cause another person to stumble since every person has a free will and makes their own choices. Yet, we sure can trip someone up. Tripping can take their focus off Jesus just long enough for them to stumble. In doing so, we make their walk more difficult.
Application of this scripture is often highly unique. For me, it involves making sure I am approachable while at the same time realizing I must sometimes do the approaching. It means getting outside of my comfort zone and talking to those outside my circle of favorites. It also means getting over my own feelings of inadequacy and not fitting in and instead helping others to feel like they are adequate and fit in.
Avoiding placing a stumbling block in another’s path requires having a strong faith that trusts God with every step. At the same time, it means being sensitive to the needs of others and doing our best to meet those needs. In other words, it means following Jesus’ example of humbleness and obedience (Philippians 2:5-8).