Born to Be Free
Who is a Stumbling Block?
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Romans 14:21, “It is right not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother stumble.” Before you and I breathed our first breath, a dear lady had borne more pain and strain for us than probably the majority of us will ever bear in the rest of our lives. She had borne it all before we were even seen by her at all.
The fact is that after that great, wonderful expression of love between our dad and our mom, after that it was all kind of uphill work for our mother. It was all just a hard job after that, you know. The old morning sickness and all the growing feeling of strain on her own body with all the veins and arteries doing double duty for two little human beings instead of just one, that really was in a way, only the beginning of it.
Then of course, she knew that all of that was only the start. That there was an ordeal ahead of her that probably few of us men could go through at all. So then there was that wild moment of tension when this was the time to rush to the hospital and she rushed to the hospital. Then there’s all the considerable pain that comes from several pounds of a little human being wanting to get out into the world. Of course, there’s the excitement of the wedding and the honeymoon in regard to that. The wedding and the honeymoon you remember are wonderful while everybody’s around you. Then after that, of course, you get into the agony and the nitty-gritty of it all. And it was the same when you were born.
When you were born, oh, that’s just wonderful; everybody came around to see you. She was just wonderful having you and all we men thought she was wonderful. Then after about two days everybody has disappeared and she suddenly finds she has a little thing that runs out at both ends and that produces pounds and pounds of dirty diapers and that never seems to need to sleep and that cries all the time. Then she knows that when she gets it home from hospital, even that is just the beginning of the beginning. Because it’s then, of course, that she starts to have to govern everything in her life, for the sake of this little human being. Really we need to see that that’s what she did and everything that she arranges, her diet and the food that she ate and all that kind of thing during the pregnancy, all that was arranged not for her sake, not because of what she wanted and enjoyed, but really for our benefit.
All the things that she felt during the pregnancy, we men say, “Oh, you’re just beautiful.” In a way you ladies are just beautiful during pregnancy, but in many ways you’re not just beautiful and you are the ones that know that. So you bear all the pain of that in the clumsiness of it and all the psychological feeling of looking clumsy and not looking beautiful and she bears all that for us during those months before we ever appear on the scene. Then when we appear on the scene, her putting us first and herself last just begins.
Yet in fact for nine months, that’s what she has been doing, but all she has been doing is up to now governing her personal habits or eating and drinking for our sake. It’s only her personal likes and dislikes that she has governed and limited and controlled for our benefit. But now once we come out and appear beside her, she begins to have to govern every detail of her life in relationship to us.
Really, it’s amazing. It’s only after we cease that intimate dependence on her body that we had — it’s only after we break that — that her absolute dependence upon us takes place. Because in strange ways, she is at least been able to take us wherever she wanted us to go, because we were inside. But now we’re outside and suddenly we begin to drag her around where she might not want to go. We begin to crawl all over the place and the moment we start to crawl, that moment, not only her personal likes and dislikes and food and drink and all the other things become dependent and governed by us, but her every movement becomes governed by us.
She actually gave up eating modeling clay years ago and she gave up eating poisoned berries years ago. Now suddenly, she has to put herself into the mind of a miserable, crawling little creature that is all over the floor all the time and is picking up all kinds of things and putting them in its mouth. She lives by proxy; she begins to live a proxy kind of life, a vicarious life.
She begins to live inside the little human being that you and I were. She lives and thinks that little human being. She has to see that as he ceases to crawl or she ceases to crawl and begins to walk, it simply reduces the four-minute warning system that she had before. Because all that we did, we can now do faster. So she has to watch out for the priceless ornament that is about to come crashing down on the neighbor’s floor. She has to get inside that little mind and, if you think of it, begin to think what we’re thinking and begin to forecast what we’re going to think.
So, in a real sense, once we came out of her body, in a way, she is more dependent upon us than we were originally dependent upon her. Of course, it carries on at all times. Not only does she govern her sleeping and her waking according to what we need but she governs her recreation time according to us.
When she goes out with our dad on an odd occasion, she is always thinking, “Now, what is he doing back there?”, or, “Is she sleeping?”, or, “Is she okay or is the babysitter okay?” No babysitter is ever okay in the mom’s mind. The mom always feels well nevertheless, despite the fact that she’s there, still, the baby is really dependent upon me. In some amazing way, the mom kind of shields us probably in all kinds of incredibly deep spiritual ways from all kinds of attacks.
So, she may be out with Dad but really she is back at home all the time. It’s the same with picnics that she goes out on and vacations that she has and recreational things that she does. All the time her mind is back with the little crawling human being there or the little human being that has started to walk around.
So, in a deep way, even when she is away from us, she is actually with us all the time. She is constantly putting our life and what we’re doing before herself. In fact, she is governing all our thoughts and our attitudes and our activity in the light of what we’re doing. That is amazing, isn’t it? I mean that’s an amazing ìslaveryî if you like to say. It’s an amazing sacrifice, when you think of it. That you not only bear those nine months of agony but then the sacrifice has only started because you start living all the time thinking of the other person.
I know we men like to think, “Oh yes, but the rewards of motherhood are infinite.” But the sacrifices of motherhood are pretty infinite when you begin to examine them like this. Then, of course, that’s the easy part that is now over. That’s just the easy part that she has lived, because she is about to really change her whole life in relationship to this little human being. Up to now, she has changed her eating habits, her drinking habits, she has changed her recreational activities, she has changed the things she can do in the evenings, she has changed the things she can do during the day, but that’s just the start.
Now, we’re coming into the biggies because school days arrive. And a house is really quite important to a lady and yet the choice of the house and its location is decided yet again on the basis of which kindergarten is nearby or which is the best school district. The mom doesn’t think of primarily where I’d like to live or the kind of thing I’d like to do, but thinks primarily of what can I do that will put nothing that is a stumbling block in the way of this little one that God has given me to.
I don’t know if you know it but with the baptism services and the dedication services that we practice in our churches, we have that question and of course, we men, we happily answer, “I will, God being my helper”, but really it’s the mom that fulfills it, you know. ìWill you so order your own life that no stumbling block be put in the way of this little one, but that she or he may be brought up in the knowledge of God and enter into the full fellowship of them that believe?î Both husband and wife answer, “I will, God being my helper”, but it’s the mom that is all the time preoccupied with, ìlet us so order our lives that our little child will have every opportunity to be successful in this life.î So, the house is chosen in the light of the school.
Then the mom begins to live in the mental life of the little human being. The little human being begins to be influenced by other adults and by other children. So the mother is always watching to see the first sign of coarseness, the first sign of cruelty, the first sign of indifference or hatred. As she sees it, she then goes on to hand over the rest of her life to this little one. Because she governs the TV that she watches, the movie, and she watches the books that she reads, and the things that are lying around the house. She governs all that in the light of the need that she sees this little one is beginning to have.
So it is, loved ones, incredible as you start to see the sacrifices that a mother makes even before we’ve reached the age of 8 or 9 years old. We start to see the way in which she governs her whole life in relationship to our success, and then you come to that time of adolescence. That’s the time you know, when the sacrifice is most obvious. That’s the time when we discover there are other ladies in the world besides our mom, or we discover there are other men in the world besides our dad. At that very time, the mother is faced with surely the greatest sacrifice, certainly the sacrifice that we talked about in the Old Testament story.
The sacrifice that she faces when she realizes that this boy or this girl that she has given up her whole life for, is going to ride off into the sunset with some other girl or with some other guy. It’s amazing that at that time when we’re in the midst of adolescence and all the confusion and all the love-hate relationships and all the selfishness and all the rebellion that take hold of us at adolescence, she actually is all intent on making sure that we have the best opportunity to meet the best partner that we possibly can meet.
So at that point, where the greatest love is giving us up, the mom kind of rises to that again. Itís interesting, you know, we all kind of think that mothers love weddings and in some ways they love weddings. Yet it is interesting when you think of it, at the heart of every wedding, there’s only one thing happening and I know we are gaining a daughter and not losing a son and all that stuff, but really, the relationship is never the same after the wedding.
After the wedding, there’s a deep relationship that you have with another man or with another woman that changes the relationship that you had with this person who has sacrificed continually for you. So, loved ones, it’s amazing you know that during those adolescent days, our mom is the one who takes care of all kinds of sanitary responsibilities for us and launders our clothes and buys the clothes that will make us look best and yet, the only eventual result of us looking our best is that she’ll eventually lose us. That is something of what a mother’s love is about and that is planted as a natural gift in mothers by our Creator, throughout the whole world.
Throughout the whole world, moms express that kind of love year upon year upon year with tremendous sacrifices that it involves. It doesn’t matter how irreligious they are or how religious they are. It doesn’t matter how civilized or uncivilized they are, God has put that incredible mother’s love in human beings throughout this world. Why? Itís all in order to enable you and me to be born into a world where we last about 70 years.
In other words, all that sacrifice, all the concentration, just to enable you and me to be born into a temporary world which will last not much more than 70 years. Now what kind of love is required to enable a person to be born into a spiritual world that will go on forever? Now you see nothing less, nothing less and probably much more.
It is good not to eat or drink or do anything that will cause your brother to stumble. Then you look at your mom’s sacrifices, eating and drinking? That’s a small part of what she governed and changed so that you would not stumble. Loved ones, how much less is it that God is asking for you and me to govern our lives by the same principle in order to have something to offer God the moment after we die?
You remember as we talked two weeks ago that there’s only one thing worth doing in this world. All your money will eventually go and you can’t take it with you anyway. All our houses will crumble and our great businesses and all our projects will be nothing. But when we go before God, our Creator, the moment after we die, the only thing that will stand at all is how many people we have brought into heaven with us. How many people we have helped to become like God so that the purpose of his creation will be fulfilled. That’s the only thing that will count.
You see to do that, to bring that about — whether you’re an engineer or whether you’re an electrician or whether you’re a secretary or a treasurer or a president, or whether you’re a plumber or a carpenter, whatever you are — that’s the whole purpose of your life. It is to enable people to become more like Jesus so that they will be with us forever in heaven. The only way to do that is so to order your own life that no stumbling block will be put in their way.
In other words, maybe you think drinking alcohol is okay; okay no big deal. But if it puts them off, it causes them to stumble, then stop it. Maybe you see no problem in eating meat. Okay, that’s great — but if it causes them to stumble then don’t eat it. In other words, be at least as concerned about them not stumbling as our dear mothers have been for us.
It’s interesting, isn’t it? Our mom, however she has been, our mom has been a living example to us, of living for other people, of living to enable other people to be born into a world and to prosper in that world and to be successful in that world. Loved ones, that’s exactly what we’re here to do. That’s the only thing that matters. So it’s not something new.
I know our society encourages us to do what suits us. That’s not reality, that’s savagery. That isn’t the new morality, that’s immorality, that’s savagery. Life always has been seen in terms of the highest experiences of it that we have seen in our own moms and dads. Life has always been living for other people. It always has been. This is just a silly deception that we practice today where we say, “Oh no, today you live for yourself.” Live for yourself and you die. You die like Howard Hughes with Kleenex tissues sticking to your fingers, in poverty and in malnutrition at the penthouse of some hotel.
No, life has only meaning, if you govern your own life as your mother governed hers, in order to make sure that the rest of us around you will not stumble but will in fact become more like God, will begin to be like Jesus and therefore will be received into heaven by our Creator at the end.
Well, what about your life and mine? I’d just ask you. That’s probably the biggest thing we can do for our mothers, isn’t it? Probably that’s the biggest thing. I mean the corsage is good and the lunch is good, but our mothers aren’t dumb. That’s one day, one day in the year. Probably the greatest thing is that we would live our lives the way she has lived her life for us.
Well I’d ask you about those people at work and about your neighbors, do you govern your own life so that they might come to know God? Are you governing your own life that way? Are you governing the television you watch, the movies you go to, the things you eat, the things you do with your money, the things you do with your house in where you live? What you do with your recreational time, the time you call your own? Your mom didn’t have any time she could call her own. Are you governing all that in the light of what will bring them closer to God?
Loved ones, after this life is over, that’s the only thing you can present to God. It’s the only thing that means anything in that vital moment, a moment after we die. A moment after we die, God will look at us and say, “Did you live for yourself or did you live to bring your neighbors and your friends and your business colleagues to know me and to know my love for them and to become like me?” On that day, we won’t be able to say, “I never knew what such a life would be like.” The Father will say, “I gave you a very clear example in the moment you were born.î
So I would pray, that we would receive the message, not even that our mothers would speak to us today, but the message that their life has preached clearly to us and that we would govern our lives in the same way. Let us pray.
Dear Father, we had this clear example from the moment we were born of this dear lady that has governed all her actions and her behavior for our success. Father, we repent that we have failed to see the wood for the trees and that we have cut ourselves loose from her and been glad that we could live our lives for ourselves. Father, we see that there’s only one meaning in life and that is, that we should help you populate heaven, that we should help others to become like you so that they will not feel out of place in heaven.
So Father, we would turn from living our lives for ourselves. We would turn from insulting our mothers. We would turn from trampling over the example that has been given to us and we would begin to live our lives the way they have, so that our friends and our colleagues at work may begin to get to know you and become more like you.
So Father, we thank you for these dear ladies. We do thank you too for the message that you bring us through their life and we tell you that we want to enable them to be satisfied with the sacrifice they have made and to enable you, Lord Jesus, to also see of the travail of your soul and be satisfied. As you see us beginning to live our lives so that no stumbling block be put in the way of our friends and neighbors and so that everything be done to bring them into that living family of God and into that world that goes on forever. We give ourselves to you, our Father, in Jesusí name for this purpose. Amen.