Clemson-Carolina, Alcohol-No Alcohol, Confederate Battle Flag Stance: Leaders Must Be Aware of The Stumbling Blocks

Posted: June 26, 2015 in 1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 8 — Sex! Now that I have your attention again! We are actually NOT going to talk about sex today. We are leaving 1 Corinthians 7 now and moving on to 1 Corinthians 8. Even though this chapter is not about sex, it is about an important and timely issue.

Causing less mature believers to stumble is the subject of this passage/chapter. The specific subject matter may seem foreign to us because it is talking about food that previously had been offered up to false gods in the Greek temples in Corinth, but it is this main idea that is as applicable to us today as ever. In today’s world there are many subjects that can separate and divide people and as leaders in our local bodies of the church and social media can be one of the ways that we cause people to stumble. There are social behavior issues that can divide and there can social belief issues that can divide us. No truer can this point be that what we are experiencing right now. In the end, as Christian leaders we must be careful as to how we respond to issues and correlate our responses with Scripture. Things that divide and things that can make others stumble in their walk can go the range from the meaningless to the important. We will start with a meaningless social issue that can divide and cause a stumble and move to more important issues.

One of the things that can actually divide Christian brothers and make them stumble is meaningless in eternity. Never is this more true than in my home state of South Carolina. Here, we are ever so passionate about our college football. In South Carolina, you must make a choice when you come out of the womb. The doctor will ask you as a newborn, “Carolina or Clemson?” In a state that did not have a nearby professional football team until 1995, the Clemson-Carolina thing is real. It is passionate. It is to me the best of the college football rivalries. Both schools have wildly passionate fan bases. In South Carolina, this rivalry can divide branches of families. It can divide neighbors. It can divide households. For example, my wife is a Gamecock fan. Her daughter is a graduate of University of South Carolina at Columbia. For those to whom it has not yet become obvious, I am a die-hard Tiger fan. My oldest daughter is a graduate of Clemson University. My church is about 75% Gamecock and about 25% Tiger (it’s weird Spartanburg though in the Upstate of South Carolina has always been a garnet and black stronghold for some reason). For all of the passion that we each have for Clemson and USC, it is meaningless in eternity. When we meet our Maker, He is not going to ask us about whether or not we were a Clemson fan or whether or not we were a Gamecock fan. It does not mean a thing. When Clemson wins the Palmetto Bowl, the sun will still come up tomorrow for Gamecock fans and vice versa. Clemson going 12-1 or 11-2 in a season does not change the situation of Pastor Saeed in Iraq. Yet, there are those who will let this Clemson-Carolina thing become a defining issue in their lives. People have left churches over this issue. We have had people leave LifeSong over comments our senior pastor, who is Gamecock fan, has made about their recent streak over the Tigers that ended this past year. My father, also a pastor, and also a Tiger fan, has lost church members over comments he has made about the Gamecocks when Clemson wins. In my own extended family, where my kids, myself and my father are the only Tigers in a decidedly garnet extended family, I have had family members actually “unfriend me” on Facebook over this issue. It is meaningless in eternity though. Whether I am a Tiger or Gamecock is not a determining factor of my value in the eyes of God. For all its passion and pageantry, football is meaningless in eternity. As leaders of Christ’s church, we must tread carefully on issues such as Clemson-Carolina because it is something that actually can cause others to stumble in their Christian walk. It can be a divisive issue. We must be cognizant of the meaningless things that people attach real value to. A careless comment about Clemson-Carolina can actually cause people to stumble in their walk with Christ, believe it or not. We must always remind the churches that we lead that we must keep our eye on the ball, the right ball, not the football, but the ball of people being led to and people maturing in Jesus Christ. That’s the game that matters.

On more important subjects, we must be cognizant of how our personal walk with Christ affects others. If I am a leader, I must be aware that how I handle myself when I am away from the church is important. If I am seen drinking a glass of wine with dinner, I must cognizant that others may be offended by it. Though I love a good wine with a meal and am somewhat of wine aficianado and love telling the difference between types of wine and grades of wine, I must be cognizant someone young in the faith, particularly those who have had trouble with alcoholism, may have issue with me drinking wine on occasion. I am a fan of trying different kinds of beer from all over the world and particularly from local breweries when I visit a new town. I must remember that the issue of alcohol consumption can be a dividing issue and stumbling block for some. Although we should not let others shape our own walk with Christ, we should be cognizant of those issues that divide. It is clear from Scripture that alcohol consumption in and of itself is not sinful. However, Scripture is quite clear that drunkenness is a sin. When we allow alcohol to control who we are and how we behave it is a sin. When alcohol becomes a god to us it is a sin. On such more important issues, where there is a line in the sand, as a leader, I must be cognizant of where that line is and never go near it as it could cause others to stumble.

On important social issues of today, it is important as ever to measure responses to them in ways that point people to Scripture and to Jesus Christ. Right now there is an issue that is dividing us that has been created by influences that seem to be out of South Carolinians making. While South Carolinians were demonstrating love and compassion for one another in the wake of the shootings at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, there are those who came in and changed the game to be about the Confederate Battle Flag. As a Southern boy through and through myself, I love the South. I love what the South has become. Although there are dark corners of our past that were horrible, there are honorable things about our past as well. I think the thing that I am proudest of is that in today’s South for the most part (outside those fringe elements on both sides of the color spectrum) blacks and whites are working together day by day side by side without it being a major issue. Southerners, both black and white, are pragmatic and see the destruction of cities over race issues as keeping us from working and making money for our families. There are things that divide though. The Confederate Battle Flag is that bone of contention. As a leader in the church, my position on this issue can cause others to stumble. The Confederate Battle Flag used only in the time of the Confederacy to fly over the armies of South and for no other purpose has since been used since the actual era of the confederacy to symbolize racist activities on the part of white people. Regardless of the history of honor and valor, it also has connotations of lynchings and segregated restaurants and buses to others. This issue can cause division within our bodies of Christ. However, we as leaders cannot let these issues divide our bodies and we as leaders must choose our words carefully. We must point people not to the past of the South. We must point people to the future of the South. We must not point people to the qualities of the Confederate Battle Flag and give history lessons and point out falsehoods about the flag, we must point out the inside and outside of Emanuel AME Church. We must point them to the Cooper River Bridge where blacks and whites stood hand in hand in love. We must point them to the love of Jesus Christ. We must find that thing that unites us. The Confederate Battle Flag for whatever it means to you whether it be positive or negative, it is the past. It’s era is done. Let us look to our future. Let us look to that which unites us. Let us point people to Jesus Christ. That is the good thing about the South. We still have Jesus Christ very prevalent in our lives both black and white. Let us look for that which points us to our Savior.

Paul speaks to us through the centuries. If he were in the South right now, he would say to us as he said to the church at Cornith. Let us keep our eye on what’s important. What’s important is people finding Jesus Christ and people maturing in their walk with him. It is not about whether I am a Clemson or a Carolina fan. It is not about whether I have an occasional beer or a glass of wine. It is not about whether I support the Confederate Battle Flag or not. He would say that the love and mercy shown by the Christ followers of Charleston over the past weeks is what is important. Let us not quibble over things that do not matter in eternity. Let us not get caught up in pointing people to things that do not matter in eternity. Let us get caught up in pointing people to Jesus Christ. Let me be cognizant as a leader of the church to use all situations, all situations to point people to Christ. Let me be cognizant that how I respond to social situations can cause others to fall away. Help me to think before I act and speak. Help me to ensure that I am pointing people to Christ by my words and actions.

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