We hear that term in the Bible: stumbling blocks. In my mind's eye, I see one of those simple wood blocks kids are given to play with, slightly "upsized" and sitting in the middle of a pathway. Perhaps it even has a sign indicating it is there: "Caution: Stumbling Block Ahead," somewhat akin to sings along the roadways that warn us of wildlife crossings or falling rocks. Perhaps life would be simpler if stumbling blocks were so cleanly and clearly identified, and having been identified, then avoided.
In scripture, the direction to avoid stumbling blocks, to abstain from setting any up...or worse, to become one to another is so very clear. It should be easy to avoid those blocks. It should be a simple thing to abstain from setting them up. It should be routine to check ourselves from becoming one to others.
And yet, life is so much more complicated than that simple ideal. In Deuteronomy, Moses continues his litany of directives to Israel concerning life under the Law, and what to do as they begin to life that Law out in context (and conflict) with their neighbors in the world. Psalm 59 depicts the psalmist beseeching God for protection from enemies to obstruct him/her from being able to keep faith with God, and prays that God will intervene, protect and preserve the psalmist while obstructing the adversary. Finally, Jesus struggles to articulate what a valid faith life could look like, even in the midst of cataclysmic, end-time craziness.
Therein lies the deepest challenge we embrace in attempting to express of life of faith in fidelity to God. We can keep covenant today, perhaps even just this moment...but the future looms in front of us and only the Lord seems to know what challenges (and stumbling blocks) lie in the road ahead. Our challenge is to keep moving, to understand that God's mercy and love are with us even assuming that with faith comes conflict, struggle, more than a few stumbling blocks, and even the occasional trip-up, face plant. The thing that gives testimony to that faith is how we rise again, particularly in the light the resurrection of Christ. He has provided the most profound model of how to overcome adversity in his triumph over the Cross through the grace of resurrection. If new life is possible in such light, then what can the odd stumbling block do to us? God's love overcomes them all...