Many of us become sidetracked by the daily grind of life and forget that our ultimate calling and purpose in Jesus Christ is to be faithful ambassadors of reconciliation between God and our neighbor. Instead, we often become preoccupied with our own priorities, plans, and goals to the neglect of those around us who desperately need the Gospel witness. Paul warned the saints in Philippi of the danger of living for only earthly matters.
Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. Philippians 3:17-19
Self-centered living can become the focus in any relationship; however, I see this most often expressed in the marital relationship between husbands and wives. In the midst of conflict, both spouses are quick to point out the failures and faults of the other in an attempt at self-vindication. In this, the last thing on their hearts and minds is to be “subject to one another in the fear of Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).
An ambassador of Jesus must hold the evangelism of the lost and the discipleship of the saved in his or her purview at all times, all the while emphasizing and unashamedly proclaiming the message that all need be “reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Most Christians would readily affirm this purpose for their lives; however, in our sinfulness, we create obstacles that block others from the love of God instead of paving an avenue of grace which leads them directly towards reconciliation to God in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. Since all sin leads to death (James 1:14-15), we must take time to investigate our intentions and measure our motives up against the truth of God’s Word to see if “there be any hurtful way” (Psalm 139:24) in us that would deny others access to the avenue of God’s grace through our Christian witness.
Through my study of Scripture and in my counseling experience, I have found that the three specific “roadblocks” listed below commonly derail God’s purposes for us in Jesus Christ.
Roadblock 1. An Unforgiving Heart
Unforgiveness, what the Scriptures call unrighteous judgment, creates potholes and stumbling blocks along the avenue of grace (Romans 14:10-13) and threatens to stifle our Gospel witness. Forgiveness is neither weakness nor an act of ignoring sin. Actually, it recognizes our inherent sinfulness and need for redemption. Jesus spoke on this matter when he was teaching his disciples.
For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then the Father will not forgive your transgressions. Matthew 6:14-15
By choosing to withhold forgiveness to those who have offended us, we are rejecting the forgiveness that Jesus Christ offered to us in the midst of our great transgressions (1 John 1:9).
This roadblock withholds grace to one who needs it, but more than that, it is an act of rebellion toward our God-given purpose as ministers of reconciliation. The avenue of grace is paved in the unity, love, and truth of the Gospel, but this roadblock creates disunity in the fellowship, hatred among the brethren, and encourages falsehood.
Roadblock 2. A Bitter Root
The deception of sin in refusing to forgive eventually leads to an attitude of bitterness. Instead of being tender-hearted and forgiving, bitterness grieves the Holy Spirit of God. Paul knew very well that bitterness distracted the believer from being a source of truth, grace, and love leading others to Jesus. He pleaded with the saints in Ephesus, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31).
The ministry of reconciliation continually provides a clear, unobstructed avenue to grace to all of those who need to hear the gospel, which includes all of us! We are called to be purveyors of peace and hosts of holiness (Hebrews 12:14). But we cannot obey the call of God in our lives when we allow a “root of bitterness” springs forth from our hearts causing trouble for some and defilement of many (Hebrews 12:15).
Like unforgiveness, bitterness is a “subtle” sin. It is directed toward the offender; however, it ends up compromising the structural integrity of our avenue of grace to others and seeks to dishonor and dethrone our Lord Jesus.
Roadblock 3. A Haughty Spirit
If one roadblock could be considered the most heinous, it would be that of a critical and haughty spirit. Throughout Scripture, those who are described as prideful are singled out as objects of wrath before God (Psalm 101:5; Proverbs 21:24; Jeremiah 13:15; Romans 12:16). In fact, a haughty spirit is an ultimate disruption to the ministry of reconciliation. Whereas Christ’s ministry is concerned with repentance, forgiveness, and grace, haughtiness is only ever concerned with self-worship.
There are six things which the Lord hates,
Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him:
Haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
And hands that shed innocent blood,
A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that run rapidly to evil,
A false witness who utters lies,
And one who spreads strife among brothers.
Nothing can bring about an unforgiving heart or a bitter root more than pride. The very fact that we have been redeemed by God through the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, not by any effort or merit of our own, should remind us that pride has no place within the heart of the minister of reconciliation (Romans 5:8; Ephesians
Stumbling Block or Sure Way?
As members of the body of Christ, we have a choice to make. Will we become stumbling blocks that get in the way of the lost who need to be found? Will we present barriers that keep our brothers and sisters from becoming further conformed in the image of Jesus Christ? In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul made it clear that each of us will indeed give an account.
Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. Romans 14:13
Instead, let us commit in our hearts that our lives would reflect the one, true, and sure way. Let our lives point others to the Prince of Peace, our Advocate, and the Savior of the World. In order for us to do this, we must remain vigilant and beware of the roadblocks that can hinder not only our own spiritual vitality but the growth and maturity of others.