One of my all time favorite movies from childhood is Finding Nemo. One of my favorite scenes is when Marlin and Dory meet the group of three sharks who vow not to eat fish anymore. The line that is continually repeated by the sharks is “Fish are friends not food”. The three sharks are attempting to help Marlin and Dory on their quest to find Nemo. Marlin and Dory have a moment where they are arguing over the diving mask that has the address to where Nemo could be. They are pulling the mask to and fro and it snaps against Dory’s nose and she bleeds. The largest of the three sharks, Bruce the Great White, catches a whiff of her blood and he forgets the new motto that he’s trying to live by. A wild chase ensues with one of the most intense scenes from the movie, while the shark who vowed to help lost his way with his desire to eat them.
There are times in our lives where we forget who we have become in Jesus. There are moments where we forget the new life that comes from having a relationship with God and we are tempted to sink back to our old ways. After getting a faint scent of blood Bruce was ready to turn back to his natural shark ways.
In Romans 14 the term that Paul uses is “stumbling block” to refer to areas of temptation in a believer’s life that might not be a hindrance to our siblings in Christ. In fact Paul says to “not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother…so then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Romans 14:13-19). The blood that came from Dory’s nose was not a temptation that everyone fell for in that scene. Bruce was the weak one who was struggling the most with his new life. The blood was a hindrance and stumbling block that sent him in a frenzy in which he fell into his natural temptation.
If there’s an area that really tempts a brother or sister in Christ, but does not tempt us, we must go out of our way to help our siblings not fall into temptation. Our job is to be our brother’s keeper and to come alongside one another so as to not allow ourselves to fall into sin. Paul implores us and shows the seriousness of bringing temptation to our siblings in Christ by making the statement: “Do not…destroy the one for whom Christ died.” (Romans 14:15). The context of this passage is concerning food and drink that might be a hindrance in the lives of ancient Christians, but the wider application encompasses all temptation that we might face for all time. The greater rule here is that temptation, no matter how insignificant it seems for us, is a big deal to someone who struggles in that area. We must be sensitive to the areas of temptation for our brothers and sisters and make diligent efforts to pursue peace for the mutual upbuilding of the body of Christ.
One of the most practical ways we can limit temptation for those around us is to practice modesty. Modesty is not some old out of date stuffy ideology. Modesty is the pursuit of holiness in Christ through our dress, speech and conduct. Choosing modest clothes, words and actions is something that is so foreign to our world today. God desires us to be set apart and one way we can do that is to make sure that we are honoring God and one another through our appearance, our choice of language and the way we live our lives. This is a way to bring peace to those around us and to make sure that we are not being a stumbling block and a hindrance to those who see us, hear us and live their lives in proximity to us.
Sin and temptation are both extremely serious. They are also both difficult to deal with. But with the help of God and the help of one another we can remove the stumbling blocks from each other’s paths. We can also make sure that we are not hindering one another’s walk with God, but rather enhancing our walks with God by building up one another in Christ.
- Have intentional conversations with your friends about what temptations they struggle with and how you can help them.
- Identify your own weaknesses and struggles and ask for help from a trusted and mature Christian friend and/or mentor if you keep falling into the same temptations.
- Ask God for guidance on what steps you should take to help your friends with their walks with God.
- Build up one another in Christ through accountability. It is nearly impossible to deal with temptation and sin without the help and accountability from mature Christian friends and/or mentors.