When Not to Follow the Leader

Something interesting happened in our neighborhood a few weeks back. The night before garbage pickup, one of our neighbors put both the garbage and recycling bins out, even though it wasn’t the week for recycling pickup. By morning, most of the block had followed suit. I then went for my morning walk and discovered something that made me chuckle. In a three-mile stretch, I noticed four or five clusters on blocks that had both recycling and garbage bins out. I’m guessing that on those blocks, as on mine, it started with one person making the mistake, copied by others around them. I saw it as a great metaphor for a trap into which Christ-followers often fall. We know the path God wants us on, but we allow ourselves to instead to follow an example set by others.

Somebody shows you a way to hack cable TV or satellite, or shares gossip with you, or treats someone else badly. You consider them a generally decent person, so you decide it’s okay to behave the way they do. You know it’s not what God wants, but you comfort yourself with “look, they’re not a bad person, so how bad can it be if I do it?” Not only does God call on us not to follow their example, but He also expects us to correct them:

If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. Matthew 18:15 (NIV)

More importantly, it should never be us that causes others to stumble:

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire. Matthew 18:6-9 (NIV)

Read Jesus’ words above carefully. It appears causing others to sin is no small matter.

Don’t let others lead you away from God and don’t lead others away from Him. The key is knowledge. My neighbors assumed one person had the necessary knowledge to get garbage day right. Don’t assume you remember perfectly God’s guide for life. Consult the Bible often. It’s the only Leader He wants you to follow.

This post is republished with permission from Oakbrook Church, De Pere.

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