I clearly remember the first time that I heard of a “stumbling block.”  Let me give you a little background… 

I was quite young at the time and was visiting my grandparents, Josh and Louetta Pyles, on their farm in Giles County, Tennessee.  Like most farmers, Granddad and Granny worked hard all their lives.  They ran a dairy (milking twice a day, 365 days a year), raised Charolais bulls, and grew some small crops.  There was always work to be done: fences to mend, cattle to vaccinate, equipment to repair, a garden and orchard to tend, hay to be baled, etc.

I don’t know if Granny had anything that could be considered a hobby.  When she wasn’t doing farm chores, she was cooking, cleaning, canning, and sewing.  Granddad, however, enjoyed coon hunting and re-loading rifle shells in his “spare time.”   But, if there was a pastime that he was truly passionate about it was shooting groundhogs, by the dozens and the hundreds.  He was a groundhog-killing machine.  Farmers around a four-county area knew that they could call on him to help eradicate the destructive, overgrown rodents from their fields.  In 1972, his best year, he shot nearly 700.  There was never any charge; he was just happy to be of service to the community.  His preferred way of shooting them was from the cab of his truck, resting a high-powered rifle (.222, .243, .30-30, .30-06, or 8 mm) on a custom-made, padded block that fit on the half-lowered, driver’s side window.  Years of this practice led to significant hearing loss (it was like a bomb going off in the truck!), and he always hedged a little when I would ask him about the legality of shooting from the roadside.

During Sunday dinner one week, my soft-spoken grandmother said to my grandfather, “Josh, I don’t want you to go groundhog hunting this afternoon.  In fact, I want you to stop shooting groundhogs on Sunday, period.  This is the Lord’s Day, and it bothers me that you spend the afternoon hunting.  It’s a stumbling block to me, and I want you to stop.” 

I remember how utterly blown away I was when Josh Pyles, the Groundhog Slayer, said, “All right, Precious.”  To my knowledge, he never hunted on Sundays again.  Unbelievable!     

This one event shaped my concept of “stumbling blocks” for a very long time.  I could only assume that it meant, “something that you do that I don’t like, so stop it.”  And, somehow, the other person was Biblically obligated to accede to your wishes.  Cool!

It was years before my study of passages like I Corinthians 8 and Romans 14 caused me to realize that my initial understanding was extremely simplistic and way off the mark from the actual meaning and intent of those texts of Scripture.  Yet, such notions and misconceptions persist widely in the body of Christ.  I’ll leave to a future post the discussion of “Stumbling Blocks: Real and Imagined.”

Was groundhog hunting on Sunday a spiritual “stumbling block” for my grandmother?  No.  This was not some matter of deep, personal, moral conflict in which the actions of another were leading to the wounding of her conscience, the ruination of her faith, and stumbling (sin) on her part.  Granddad wasn’t leading her, against her better judgment and convictions, to personally take up arms and join him in blasting away at the little critters on Sunday.  So, no, this wasn’t really a stumbling block to her in the true, Biblical sense.

Was she within her rights as a wife to express her displeasure over something her husband was doing and ask him to stop simply because it bugged her or got on her nerves?  Of course!  Happens all the time!  It’s called marriage.

Did Granddad make the right decision in humbly agreeing to her request without arguing or insisting on what he could do as the “man of the house?”  You’d better believe he did!  It’s called love.  I would like to believe that his decision had nothing to do with the fact that the middle of the afternoon is the worst time of the day for groundhog hunting anyway. 

The week between Groundhog Day and Valentine’s Day seemed like a very appropriate time for this post.