Very often we don’t recognize our influence on others. Other times it is crystal clear. As parents we have a deep influence on our children, both in teaching them as well as in their observance of our actions and interactions with them and others. As followers of Christ, we have a very similar influence on ALL those around us, believers and non-believers alike.
Mark 9:42 (TNIV)
“If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.
Here, Jesus talks about “little ones”. He is talking less about children and more about those who are young in their faith, weak in their faith, or who have no faith.
On a personal note, I remember after the first Gulf war around June of 1991, I was in the Army and my children were toddlers, I was, at that time in my life, drinking a lot. NOTE: THIS STORY MAY NOT BE FOR SOMEONE WITH A WEAK STOMACH, but it makes a point).
We were in Stuttgart Germany and lived in Army Quarters. I remember one night getting really drunk (actually I only remember the aftermath of the next day). All I had in my stomach was beer and I got so drunk that I threw up all over the wooden floor, slipped in it and passed out smack dab in the middle of the mess I had made.
My wife, wise woman that she is, just left me there! I woke up the next morning and felt physically terrible, run over by a Mack truck……… and I REALLY LOOKED BAD! I’ll never forget how I looked when I saw myself in the mirror. My hair was all matted and stuck to my face, my eyes were horrible and I looked like, well…….excuse the expression, I looked like “hell”.
Here is my point: I immediately recognized that I could NEVER let my children see me this way! I immediately recognized that I was a POOR example as a father and that I needed to change. I quit drinking on that day and didn’t have another alcoholic beverage for years, and even then, I don’t believe that I have been “drunk” once since. I do enjoy a German or imported beer on occasion…..but you will never see me drunk!
In that case, my girls were truly “little ones”…….but what about adults?
I have friends that are alcoholics and/or that are addicted to other substances. While I can handle drinking in moderation (one or two beers), I WOULD NEVER offer them a beer.
Indeed, if they did drugs, how could I offer them drugs and consider myself a mature follower of Jesus or even more so….a leader of any sort? Drugs are both addicting as well as ILLEGAL! IN FACT, as followers of Jesus, we should be doing everything we can to encourage them to do the right things, to stay away from these substances and the bondage it produces.
The key here is this…..that as followers of Jesus, those who are weak in their faith or that have no faith in God, look to US to do the right things. HELLOOOOOOO…… we are their example! When we don’t do the right things….we are saying its okay to sin. Simply by virtue of our faith, we have influence over others.
Our thoughts and actions must always be motivated by love, we must always be careful about judging others. However, we also have the responsibility, in love, to CONFRONT flagrant sin in our own lives as well as the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Jesus is saying that it would be better to die than to lead others astray. As Followers of Jesus, when we lead others astray, when we are snakes in the grass or when we are wolves in sheep’s clothing, we are pointing people away from the salvation in Christ that they need. Indeed, we are actually dragging them away from their redeemer, their Savior and their Messiah!