7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. (Romans 14:7–8, NKJV)
Your life affects many others, and they also affect you. To borrow from the 17th-century English poet, John Donne, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less…Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.” Even more than being members of the human family, Christians are “members of one body” (the church). Our lives impact each other. Therefore, our choices must honor God as well as bless others. God does not teach us to isolate ourselves. Indeed, the very essence of brotherly love is outward-looking “for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4). In the body of Christ, when one suffers, we all suffer; when one is honored, we all rejoice (1 Cor. 12:26). No one is an island.
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? (Galatians 3:1, NKJV)
It is not enough to believe Jesus Christ died for our sins in order to be saved. His crucifixion has been posted like a billboard for all to see through preaching “Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23). Yet, to be saved from our sins and kept in Christ’s blessed care Christians must faithfully run the race and “obey the truth” (see Gal. 5:7). The Christians in Galatia had fallen under an evil influence that convinced them they could be true to Christ yet not obey the truth. Many continue to be bewitched with the evil influence of salvation by a faith that fails to obey the truth. Genuine faith in Christ calls for our obedience, for He is “the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Heb. 5:9). “Therefore, do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is,” and by faith obey His truth (Eph. 5:17).
For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil.” (Romans 16:19, NKJV)
Faithful, obedient living has a positive influence that reaches much farther than you think. To keep a good influence the Lord wants you to develop the ability to discern good and evil. God’s word teaches us the difference between good and evil. By obeying God’s word you show yourself to be wise. Furthermore, by doing so you will be innocent of evil and your obedience will encourage others to also obey the Lord.
Now the servants and officers who had made a fire of coals stood there, for it was cold, and they warmed themselves. And Peter stood with them and warmed himself.” (John 18:18, NKJV)
During the Passover meal before He was arrested and put to death, Jesus told Peter he would deny knowing Him three times before daybreak. Peter vehemently objected, and all the disciples joined in refusing to believe such a thing (Mk. 14:27-31). Later that night Jesus was arrested and taken to the high priest to be examined. Peter warmed himself by the fire in the courtyard of the high priest (Jno. 18:15-16). Peter put himself into a situation in which he was influenced by unbelievers to deny the Lord. He could have rationalized why he was there. He was in the courtyard because he cared about Jesus and wanted to see what would happen next. He was by the fire because it was cold. Nevertheless, his decision to be there put him in a compromising (and ultimately sinful) situation. Learn from Peter to be wise and to choose carefully where you go and the people you will be around. They will have an influence on you. Will they influence you to honor Christ? Or, will they tempt you to deny the Lord?
31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. 1 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:31–11:1, NKJV)
Jesus did not live to please Himself, but the Father (Rom. 15:3; Jno. 8:29). He was always careful not to influence others into sin. Paul followed this example of Christ, and in our passage he exhorts Christians to imitate him. Paul would forego his God-given liberty so as not to influence someone else to violate his conscience before God (see 1 Cor. 10:23-33; 8:7-13). Paul also said, “Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being” (1 Cor. 10:24). To do that, we must willingly lay aside our right to do something (clearly, he is speaking of things God allows but does not mandate) so as not to place an offense or stumbling block (a trap or snare) before someone whose conscience is weak in that matter. By thinking of others before yourself and refusing to cause them to stumble, you honor God, not yourself. That is what a Christian does.
A little leaven leavens the whole lump. (Galatians 5:9)
This adage is easily understood. Just as it takes only a small amount of leaven to affect an entire loaf of bread, a little sin has a saturating influence on one’s life. The encroachment of sin may begin almost imperceptibly, yet its mark is always left. Do not be deceived into believing that “a little sin will not hurt”; Sin always hurts. Even a little sin endangers your soul and opens the door to still more sin. Left unchecked, sin’s influence permeates your heart and your life – hardening you and destroying you as it goes. Be on guard and do not be deceived by sin’s deadly influence. Give sin no safe haven in your heart, for if you do, its destructive influence will be swift and complete. Choose instead to be influenced by the truth of God (Phil. 4:8).