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The Scriptorium

Stumbling Blocks

Opportunities to love your neighbor. Luke 17.1-4

Luke 17 (1)

Pray Psalm 69.5-7.
O God, You know my foolishness;
And my sins are not hidden from You.
Let not those who wait for You, O Lord GOD of hosts, be ashamed because of me;
Let not those who seek You be confounded because of me, O God of Israel.
Because for Your sake I have borne reproach;
Shame has covered my face.

Sing Psalm 69.5-7.
(Greensleeves: What Child Is This?)
O God, our folly all You know, our wrongs from You are not hidden.
Let those who in Your mercy go not by our shame be smitten.
Let none dishonored be because, O Lord, because of me!
You make me dishonor see; on me reproach is written.

Read and meditate on Luke 17.1-4.

1.What must we be careful not to do?

2. What must we be ready to do?

Jesus offers practical advice on how to promote active and effective love within the community of believers. First, we must be so careful about our own walk with the Lord that we do nothing which might cause a fellow-believer to stumble into sin (the meaning of “offend”, vv. 1, 2). Love for neighbors demands that we always put before them the example of Jesus and His self-denying, God-honoring way of life. We must focus on doing good to others. We’ll never do this perfectly, of course (v. 1), and if we do become aware of having offended someone or of causing a neighbor to stumble into sin, we must go right away to seek forgiveness and to repent of all sinful behavior. That, too, is the loving thing to do.

Further, if someone does sin against us, even though we may not fall into sin ourselves, and comes to request forgiveness and to declare repentance, love requires that we forgive and that our relationship be fully restored (vv. 3, 4). This may require our bringing the matter up in the form of a rebuke (v. 3), and this also is what love leads us to do for the sake of our brethren.

So let’s review: We love our neighbors by living in such a way as not to cause them to stumble into sin. We love our neighbor when he sins against us by showing him his sin. We love our neighbor when, having sinned against him – even if he did not stumble into sin – we confess our sin and declare our repentance. And we love our neighbor by forgiving him when sin is confessed and repentance is indicated.

It’s not hard to see how such conscientiousness and care will promote a greater measure of love within the body of believers.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162.
American author Eleanor Porter wrote a novel entitled Pollyanna about a character who was so optimistic that a word has come into the common vernacular attached to that name. To be Pollyannish is to be so full of irrepressible optimism that you find good in everything. Now that we have defined it, please do not accuse me of being such when I opine that there is an upside to being sinned against.

Nonetheless, here is the upside: “if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent’” (Lk. 17.4), then that gives you seven reminders in one day to praise God. The psalmist wrote, “Seven times a day I praise You, because of Your righteous judgments” (Ps. 119.164). See? It’s an optimistic – positive and edifying – way to look at being wronged.

There are many other reminders to praise the LORD: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Ps. 19.1).
“And the heavens will praise Your wonders, O LORD…” (Ps. 89.5).
“My praise shall be continually of You” (Ps. 71.6).
“Praise the LORD! Praise the name of the LORD; praise Him, O you servants of the LORD!” (Ps. 135.1)
“Sing praises to His Name, for it is pleasant” (Ps. 135.3).
“For You are my praise” (Jer. 17.14).

Scripture offers many such commands and reasons to give praise to God; so, praise and thanks should be our knee-jerk reaction to everything (1 Thess. 5.16-18). We can use each reminder, positive and negative, to send our hearts soaring in praise to Him throughout the day. Thanks, Pollyanna!

“Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Heb. 13.15). The truth is, praise offered to God after being sinned against is indeed, sacrificial. It hurts to do it. The upside? We have been reminded to praise, then we praise Him, and thus have brought delight to God (Prov. 11.20; 12.22; 15.8, 9).

For reflection
1. Can you see how the power of love can overcome sin and wrongdoing? Explain.

2. Why should we as Christians be “Pollyannish” about our lives in the world? If we were, do you think we would give God more thanks and praise? Explain.

3. What benefits should we expect to realize by a more loving approach to our daily lives?

He says that there will be woe to the person who lays the stumbling blocks in the way. He does not leave indifference in these things without rebuke but restrains it by fear of punishment. He still commands us to bear with patience those who cause sins to happen. Cyril of Alexandria (375-444), Commentary on Luke, Homilies 113-116

Pray Psalm 69.13-15.

Pray that God will keep you from being a stumbling-block to others. Thank and praise Him for Jesus, Who has borne our shame and grants us a greater measure of salvation day by day.

Sing Psalm 69.13-15
(Greensleeves: What Child Is This?)
O Lord, we make our prayer to You; receive our words, O Savior!
Let lovingkindness see us through, and answer us with favor!
Lord, lift us above the mire; deliv’rance is our one desire!
Let not the floods conspire to swallow us forever!

T. M. and Susie Moore

You can download all the previous studies in our Luke series by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available free by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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