S36P7 – Saintly encouragement: expect the unexpected

1 Cor. 8:8-10

Now food will not condemn us to God nor bring us close to him; we are no worse off if we do not eat, nor are we better if we do eat. Only be careful that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone sees you, a person having knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, then if he is weak, will he not be encouraged to eat things sacrificed to idols against his own convictions?

A young man is trying to make his way in the world and strikes out on his own. He desperately wants to find love but jumps from relationship to relationship without much success. From his perspective on the inside looking out, he does not see that a pattern of behavior of his is what keeps his relationships from being successful. It takes someone on the outside to bring this to his attention and make him wonder why he behaves the way that he does. After much searching, he realizes what has influenced him in this way. He spent his formative years watching his father fail to love his mother as he should have. The young man did not realize that he was quietly being encouraged to behave this way toward women. The son then understood what the father never knew, which is that someone was watching and learning from him all this time. We must realize that others may be watching and learning from us as well.

While we usually think of encouragement as something positive, it is certainly possible to encourage someone for the bad. Today’s scripture speaks of behaving in a manner that causes people to act against their own personal convictions. In this specific example, the actor is not necessarily aware that he is being watched as a model of good behavior. Just as parents, older siblings and more mature people in general may be viewed as examples by children, we have brothers and sisters who watch us as they look for models of Christian behavior to follow. You may be completely unaware of those who look to you as a measuring rod of a godly person just as others may be unaware of you looking at them the same way. This is why we must be vigilant to live as godly people at all times. If we knew that the course of our lives would cause another to stumble, we might take the steps necessary to change the course of our lives.

There are some people in our lives who we very obviously influence. We have intentional personal interactions with them and perhaps expect that they learn from us. We may have a goal of teaching certain people how to be Christlike. In those instances, we are sure to speak and act in a way that teaches godliness. We cannot, however, think that there are times when we can let down our guard and not be good examples. We never know when someone is watching and learning from us. It should be our desire that those who see and hear us, even if we are unaware, would see and hear people who lift them and encourage them to be Christlike. We always should be conscious to behave in a way that would not cause others to stumble. Father, thank You for the positive influence and encouragement that You allow us to have on others, and remind us to always act in a way that encourages people for the good.