A sense of trepidation accompanies me at the beginning of my Ph.D. studies. One look at the syllabi for my first week of seminars, and I am overwhelmed by the pages to be read, papers to be written, ideas to be considered, and arguments to be made.
One of the things that always comes up when you speak of tattoos, smoking, drinking, et al. is the issue of making a brother stumble to show why one should abstain from doing those things at all. When one proof texts and reads current culture into the passages, they seem to have a great point and one that kept me under a heavy yoke for some time. What actually ended up happening is that this so called “weaker brother” kept me under his yoke of conscience instead of me being able to seek out Christ and his easy yoke and burden that is light. I kept trying to refrain from certain things because I was always worried that I would make a brother stumble and was so consumed by this, my life was more about the weaker brother and his issues than the glorifying of God in my actions and actually loving the weaker brother.
A recent letter to columnist Carolyn Hax of The Washington Post seemed straightforward enough. “I am a stay-at-home mother of four who has tried to raise my family under the same strong Christian values that I grew up with,” the woman writes. “Therefore I was shocked when my oldest daughter, ‘Emily,’ suddenly announced she had ‘given up believing in God’ and decided to ‘come out’ as an atheist.”
I’ve been preaching through the book of 1 Peter for our Exiles series at church on Sunday mornings. It’s a powerful book. Just this Sunday I preached on 1 Peter 1:22-25 where Peter calls the church to a deep kind of love. What struck me most about this chapter is a simple, seemingly throwaway line, in the middle of verse 22. Peter says simply that the object of our love is to be “the brethren.” In other words, the gospel in us, the new life of Christ, should make us burst with love for fellow Christians. And this is not the first time this is mentioned in the New Testament. Over and over and over again we are told that Christians should have a special love for our brothers and sisters in the Lord. In Peter’s letter, he says this should be a “fervent” love. This implies a stretching, at-all-costs-exhaustive love from the heart.