Many a times we might have caused our brothers and sisters to sin through our words and actions without even knowing. When viewed from an individual’s perspective the repercussions might not be obvious. However, if we see ourselves as the stones and pillars that form the Holy Temple of God (Eph 2: 21) then there might be some cause for concern. Can the Holy Temple of God be made up of individuals or groups of believers who judge one another and cause one another to sin? What will happen if the stones and pillars decide to go their separate ways due to a lack of cohesion or unity?
Jesus warned his disciples: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” (Mark 9:42; Matt 18:6; Luke 17:2) This passage, which occurs in three of the Gospels, tells us that it would be better for one to have died before causing the more vulnerable Christians to sin as it is regarded by Christ as a serious offence, and will be punished accordingly.
St. Paul told the Romans: “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.” (Rom 14:13) We should consciously stop leading our brothers or sisters into sin, either by our example, or by a severe and harsh judgment, provoking them to anger, or exciting jealousy and suspicions. If every Christian, instead of judging his brothers or sisters severely, would promote peace and not lead others into sin, it would greatly advance the harmony and purity of the church of Christ.
In a later verse (Rom 14:19), St. Paul said: “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” If men aim at the great ideals proposed by the Christian religion, they will live in peace. If they seek to promote their private ends, to follow their own passions and prejudices, they will be involved in strife and contention. There are great common ideals (e.g. protect the poor and weak, uphold justice, etc.) in which all Christians can unite, and in the pursuit of which they will cultivate a spirit of peace. Christians actually have more areas they can agree with each other than differ.
The word “edify” means to instruct or improve (someone) morally or intellectually. Applied to the church, it means to do anything by teaching, counsel, advice, etc. which will enable Christians to overcome difficulties and to remove their ignorance, etc. (Acts 9:31; Rom 15:2; 1 Cor. 14:3). In these expressions the idea of a “building” is retained, as the church is built on a firm and reliable cornerstone, our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 2:20; Isa 28:16). Christians are thus regarded, according to Paul’s noble idea (Eph 2:20-22), as one great temple erected for the glory of God. United as one, and therefore bound to do all that is possible, with each person suited to their appropriate place, to perform their appropriate function in the body of Christ.
Let us learn from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians how Christ can bring about peace and mutual edification among believers:
“Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Eph 2:12-22)