The Weaker Brother
So I’ve been thinking about this for the last couple days, this weaker brother. I’m often confused as to who he might be. It is a concept that is brought about by scripture, but in my reading of these passages I do wonder if we aren’t a little confused in what that is all about. I mean in 1 Cor. 8 you have the concept applied to the eating of meat sacrificed to Idols, and the idea is that by doing it even though you are thereby not worshiping the idol, not sinning in that manner, you may unknowingly convincing a brother weak in the faith to abandon the faith and worship idols. The stumbling block isn’t that you have offended someone, but caused them to fall from the faith. That is a serious thing indeed. Unfortunately for us, the context is almost completely lost in our Western Society today.
Today, people are warned not to cuss, not to drink, not to smoke, and evidently not to enjoy anything that might cause another person to be offended, whatever that might be. And I am finding that can be a great array of things. But no one ever stops and wonders whether the anonymous “weaker brother” even has the right to be offended by these things. Or if in fact, it just might be that the person we are calling the weaker brother is the wrong person all together, and really we are placing a stumbling block in their way with made up laws and to use the tired cliché, legalism and pietism. This could happen on two accounts. One, everyone thinks the Old Adam is the source of temptation to indulge in fornication, drunkenness etc. So you often have people measuring their piety, their strength in the Christian faith by how well they abstain from doing these things, and often by how offended they can be at such things. And by never challenging their notions of piety and right and wrong you encourage them to continue in that sin, because it is the Old Adam himself that tempts us to judge others by our own standards, to judge ourselves and our Christian “walk” by how well we are abstaining from things neither forbidden nor commanded by Scripture.
On the other hand, I have often had the experience that many in the world are afraid to go to church. They are afraid they will be judged for their sins. They are afraid they can’t live up to the standards they perceive the church to be about maintaining. We put stumbling blocks in their way when we make up rules and replace God’s law with them, even if all we are trying to do is put a fence around them. And this, this is grave sin. God warns about this very sternly. When Moses repeats the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel, he leaves them with this: “You shall be careful therefore to do as the Lord your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess. (Deuteronomy 5: 32-33) And Jesus spends almost his entire ministry being badgered by those who turned to the right, if a little law is good more is better was the thought of the Pharisee. He says these men of the law would go to the ends of the earth to create one proselyte, and when they made him twice a child of hell. (Matt. 23:15) Today this has gotten so bad, a person can’t use language that is found in scripture without being accused of causing a stumbling block for the weaker brother, when all they have done is pissed off a few uptight schoolmarms and retired hall monitors. Seriously, you want to see or hear “course” language, read scripture, where it talks of whores, and paramours hung like horses with the issue of donkeys, and baking bread over a fire of dung, where God tells people he is going to make them eat their own dung and drink their own urine (Dung and urine, yeah that is what the original said, try shit and piss). (2 Kings 18:27)
But no, we have decided in our infinite wisdom that God’s law is not good enough for us. We are going to make new laws. And we are going to hold others accountable to them. You can go to hell with those laws. I mean that literally, that is where they lead. But the sad thing is, you take your weaker brother with you, because he is led to believe he isn’t a good Christian because he can’t live up, not to Christ’s law, but to yours. And when you finally do get him to church, he believes that what makes him a good Christian isn’t the forgiveness of sins, but his ability to bite his tongue, and feel offended by a girl’s sundress that might cause a weaker brother to have tinge of lust, you know because a woman’s body is evil, unless it is your wife’s, but then it isn’t you who are evil, it is your neighbor’s wife. Yeah, it gets ridiculous quick. We can’t go to the beach anymore, never mind Eusebius recording that John, the beloved disciple ran out of a bath house without any clothes on, wasn’t any nudity in there!
No, I run into weaker persons (as paul actually calls them) everyday. They tend not to be the ones offended by course language. They are people broken, who know that they have sinned. They are single moms, who have more to worry about then your ears. They are troubled teens that have a lot on their plate learning how to cope in this world. They are construction workers, and soldiers, who with good reason are quite suspicious of holiness games being played at the neighborhood church. And we Christians? We can’t even enjoy the metropolitan anymore because there might be nudity in a painting. Heaven forbid we actually try to act like Christ and eat and drink with sinners.