March 23, 2015


“Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak” (1 Cor. 8:9).

During the first week of March 2015, news reporters in the Washington, D.C., area talked about potential snowfall averages and predictions for the peak bloom of the cherry blossoms in the same paragraph. In our home we wondered what kind of week we’d have—school or no school, delayed or on-time openings. By Thursday morning we had our answer. Snow day!

Before the sun fell over the horizon, my family bundled up and went outside. We were soon draped in white flakes. My husband and I shoveled the heavy powder so he could go to work that evening.

After putting our girls to bed, I propped my computer on my lap and finished some work. At midnight I yawned, thought to call it a night—until I looked outside and saw what had to be the last plow truck chug by. The salted road looked lovely, clear. Passable. Our driveway did not.

Huge boulders of icy snow blocked the driveway entrance. Sighing, I put on my boots, gloves, and coat. My breath making small clouds, I dragged a shovel from the garage and examined the wide entrance barrier. Several of the knee-high blocks were stuck in heavy slush. Dragging, chopping, tossing, measuring, scooping, slicing . . . I cleared a path for the car. Exhausted, I changed my sweaty clothes, collapsed into bed, and quickly fell asleep.

In the morning my husband arrived home and thanked me for clearing the driveway. When I mentioned the relocated ice chunks, he exclaimed, “I’m so glad you cleared a path! I didn’t realize they were ice, and I would have tried to drive over them. I would have messed up the bumper, at the very least.”

As an adolescent I remember complaining when I was told what I should and should not do on Sabbath; what I should and should not eat; what I should and should not watch and read; what I should and should not wear, etc. Those helping me grow up would take the time to explain the why. And it would always point back to Scripture, to God’s living Word. Always. Grumbling at times, I still wasn’t able to fault their logic.

Sometimes, in what I’m pretty sure was exasperation, my mother would pull out the “stumbling block” card and ask me if what I wanted to do would reflect Christ’s character in me. If I acted a certain way, was I being a witness for Jesus? Or would I confuse someone with my actions and behavior—saying one thing and doing another?

She’d use such relatable examples as this: you believe that the body is a temple (1 Cor. 6:19, 20), so if you smoke, that not only weakens your body—it tosses a stumbling block out to others who wonder why you’d advocate for clean living and then tarnish your lungs. Or if you preach that God wants people to take care of the world (Gen. 1:26) but then throw garbage out the car window, you put up another barrier.

Once we have been shown the truth, it is our responsibility to live it. In faith, in close communion with God, we can live it. Christ’s character should be visible in our demeanor, our dress, our actions.

Those who don’t know Jesus may not recognize the huge ice blocks for what they are. Without intervention, they will continue along the path toward ruin.

Not only should we help clear the path for others—we shouldn’t throw down our own boulders and potentially cause confusion, disappointment, and disdain.

We should be who we say we are. “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6). Simply, helpfully—be a witness.