Over at T&S, Rosalynde Welch responded to a provocative (and obnoxious) assertion I made that we need not care what the neighbors think with a discussion of Romans 14:13-15. (Sorry for keeping this going, but I found I had a lot to say about it and didn’t want to pack on a massive response.)
The general gist was this: if what you do is a stumblingblock for someone’s faith, don’t do it, even if it is not a sin. The discussion was interesting, and I went out last night feeling edified.
I went out and chaperoned a school dance, and at midnight I gave my nonmember female colleague a ride home. She lives a few blocks from us, and her family and our family spend a lot of time together, including some church social activities. Thinking about the post, it occurred to me that if someone were to see me driving in a car with this woman after midnight, they could easily make an assumption about a temple-recommend holding bishopric member which might be a stumblingblock. And yet I have examined my conscience and regret nothing. I cannot be convinced that leaving a friend, regardless of age or gender, standing at a taxi stand in the middle of the city at midnight could be the right thing to do. I know there are GA anecdotes and policy statements; I don’t care. Explaining it to her would be impossible and would maybe end our friendship, and certainly retard any progress toward sharing the gospel. I cannot imagine Christ saying to Mary Magdelene, ‘Stop hanging around so much — people will get the wrong idea.’ (Which, incidentally, they did.) (Or did they?)
This is a stumblingblock based on appearances. I still maintain this is not really my problem. If someone did see me, they can ask me to explain or give me the benefit of a doubt.
Paul seems to be pointing out that different people will have different reading’s of the Lord’s law that are not significant to Him, but which are defining to individuals. If I read this correctly, some people were choosing not to eat meat, and Paul is saying, among other things, ‘It’s not required, but don’t judge them.’ Good point, and I stand in need of repentance for judging hairshirt Mormons, Coke-avoiders, etc. Then he says, rather cryptically, ‘But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably.’ He seems to suggest not eating meat to avoid putting out the stumblingblock. I can see his point and the abstract principle, but I can’t see the application beyond the specific situation. If I’m not judgmental, how can I know what others will judge? How can I know what individuals will read into the law? Isn’t the stumblingblock in the eye of the beholder?
Even if we’re aware of the stumblingblocks, there are problems. Let me use a real example. We all know people that would think it was wrong for an active member to read Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling. I think we agree that the Lord doesn’t mind if we do, and He probably doesn’t mind if we don’t. So we want to follow Paul’s admonition. Which do we do?
A. Don’t read it.
B. Only read it in private, so nobody will see us, and hide the copy when members drop by.
Neither seems satisfactory. I actually think the verse is too obscure to apply, and the stumblingblock is the judgment in the first place. As a result, I would add this:
C. Read it and talk about it, but not in a way that makes someone feel stupid or sinful for not reading it.