There will always be stumbling blocks that stand in the way of people obeying the gospel of Jesus Christ. In 1 Corinthians 1:23 Paul says, “but we preach Christ crucified, unto Jews a stumbling block, and unto Gentiles foolishness;”. The Jews couldn’t accept the gospel because they expected signs. The greeks rejected the gospel because it was too simple for them. While they seem like two very different reasons, when we boil it down they are actually quite similar. Both groups rejected the gospel because of their own prejudice. They pre determined how the gospel should look. When something showed up that was different than their understanding, instead of changing their own minds, they rejected the gospel.
I wonder what Paul would write to Campbell County. What is the greatest stumbling block that we have to obeying the gospel?I can’t answer that fully, but I know one answer that should be close to the top of the list. It is certainly the one that I hear the most:
“My mom was a _________________ so I am going to be a ______________.”
The stumbling block of Mama.
It makes sense that Mom is elevated to such a high position in our minds. Mom is usually our first experience with goodness. And that’s the way it should be.
Robert Ingersoll was a skeptical enemy of God. In the height of his influence, a couple students went to hear his lectures. After it was over one of the students said that Ingersoll basically destroyed the notion of God. The other student disagreed saying “Ingersoll did not explain my mother’s life, and until he can explain my mother’s life I will stand by my mother’s God”.
God has given things in our lives to establish a belief that there is a God. Things like creation speak to the existence of God (Psalm 19:1, Rom 1:20), but they do not speak to us the instructions that we are to follow. Those are revealed in his Word (2 Tim 3:16). The same is true with moms and every good thing in our lives. These good things are designed, not to be the standard of goodness, but to lead us toward the standard. As Paul said in Athens, these good things are in our lives so we would “seek God, if haply they would feel after him and find him…” (Acts 17:27).
There is no doubt that moms and good people are blessings in our lives, and we should thank God for them every day. But we also need to realize that even the Apostle Paul put a limit to the way we should view examples. In 1 Corinthians 11:1 he said “imitate me as I imitate Christ”. Paul recognized his own ability to fall and made sure that people knew that Jesus is the standard, not him. He really emphasizes this point at the beginning of the same letter in 1:12ff. Paul served as an excellent example and in my opinion may have been the greatest Christian that ever lived, but even he is not to be followed in a way that causes one not to obey the word of Christ (2 Thes 1:8).
I have studied with so many people who have clearly seen that the Bible teaches that baptism is essential for salvation (Mk 16:16, Acts 2:38, 1 Peter 3:21). Upon learning the truth they bring up people that are dead and gone who didn’t believe that. Usually it is Mom, Dad, or a spouse. Then they justify their own disobedience to the word of God because of those people not believing it.
There is not a person who has lived on this earth since 33AD who has served as the standard to follow. Every one of us will be judged by the word of God, not by one another. You will not be judged by whether you stayed loyal to your family ties. You will be judged by what you did in response to the word of God (Matt 7:21-23).
Paul sympathizes with the reality that some of the people we think the most of did not obey the gospel. We can feel his words in Romans 9:3, “I wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren sake, my kinsmen according to the flesh”. None of us want to bear the thought that someone we love and admire so much might have been wrong. But just like it was a wish for Paul, we can’t curse ourselves to save those people who are already gone. It is an impossibility. Ultimately, we all will be responsible for our own judgement and our own judgement alone.
God will not look at us a noble or virtuous for disobeying what he has clearly stated because we are loyal to our family and those people who we love.
Really, when you think about it, any Mama that ever loved their child would say “baby, obey Jesus”(Heb 12:2). She would say, “don’t rebel against the word of God because of me”. No matter where she is at this point if she could say anything to you it would be pleading with you to accept the salvation that Jesus offers in his Church (Ephesians 5:23). She would plead with you to be baptized into the church of Christ today (1 Cor 12:13, Eph 5:26). She would plead with you to live faithful with the family of God (1 Tim 3:15) and realize that salvation is not found in any fleshly family. Salvation is in the family of God, the Church of Christ.