Have you ever driven around a parking lot looking for a place to park your car, only to find that the one spot available has another vehicle crowding it, in being parked over the line?
That happens to me every time, it seems! It is just an annoying fact of living in this crowded world of ours. It is very easy to get annoyed and take it out on the person who over-parked, isn’t it? I once took a piece of paper and wrote an angry note on it and stuck it under such a person’s windshield wiper. Of course, after I walked down the aisle of parking spots I began to feel bad about the note, after noticing that the five cars parked to his left had also over-parked. I went back and removed the note from his windshield and was tempted to put it in the windshield of the first over-parked car, but thought better of it.
What had happened, of course, was that the first car parked too far to his right causing the next car to do the same, and the next car, and the next car all the way down to me. I am sure that the person who was already parked to my right was annoyed when he came back because my car was over-parked and now crowding him.
What lesson can we learn from this about the influence we have on others? With regard to our personal influence, it is easy to see from this illustration that our actions cause others to have a reaction.
You have two islands in the midst of the sea, there is no contact between them, and so what happens on one island has little or no effect on the other. With regard to man’s relationship to his fellow man, everything we do has an effect upon our environment and upon others. The Bible affirms this same principle,
“For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself.” — Romans 14:7 NKJV
The context here deals with violating the conscience of one who is weaker in the faith by eating meat in their presence. To many Christians in Rome and also Corinth, the eating of meat that had previously been offered to idols and later sold in the common marketplace was too closely connected with idolatry for their conscience. Paul was concerned that eating in the presence of those who so conscientiously objected was the same as, “to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.” — Romans 14:13 NKJV.
God calls such as a violation of the law of love,
“Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.” — Romans 14:15 NKJV
We must never forget how we can negatively influence others, even when we have the best of intentions in mind. This can be seen even in our over-parked illustration; perhaps the first person who over-parked had intended to give the person in the handicap parking spot next to him a little extra room to get in and out of their vehicle. It could be the case that his best of intentions toward the handicapped person negatively affected the next six or seven vehicles in the row.
We must be careful and sensitive toward others; but also we must not let these things keep us from doing what is right. That is where political correctness has harmed our society, because in order to soothe the sensibilities of the few, we done harm to the many. Such as, the politically correct view that we must go out of our way to not violate the rights or conscience of atheists or people of non-Christian religions.
But, in doing so we violate the rights or conscience of those in Christian religions. Therefore we must always strive to strike a balance between doing what is right and negatively influencing other by doing what is wrong. Paul also said,
“Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil…” — Romans 14:16 NKJV.
In our illustration, why was I angry with the owner of the over-parked vehicle next to me? I think it was do to a lack of communication. I did not know why he took up part of my parking spot so I just assumed he was a rude or careless individual. When the reason why he was over-parked was communicated to me (i.e. I noticed the other over-parked cars) I understood where he was coming from and was no longer annoyed with him.
Likewise, when we do something, which causes our brother or sister in Christ to stumble, there needs to be some line of communication between us and the one we have offended.
“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother…” — Matthew 18:15
Here He is talking about actual sin, but the same application is valid with regard to other transgressions or perceived transgressions. Communication is vital in our natural families — between husbands and wives, parents and children. Communication is also vitally important between member of our church family. Communication makes peace between brethren; it heals rifts between elders, deacons or preachers and the congregations they serve. We must strive to, in all things, demonstrate our love for each other by effectively communicating with one another.
The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to say,
“Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.” — Romans 14:19 NKJV
Communication and consideration of others will go along way toward this end.