Exodus 23:1–9

Justice for All

You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with the wicked to act as a malicious witness. You shall not follow a majority in wrongdoing; when you bear witness in a lawsuit, you shall not side with the majority so as to pervert justice; nor shall you be partial to the poor in a lawsuit.

When you come upon your enemy’s ox or donkey going astray, you shall bring it back.
When you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden and you would hold back from setting it free, you must help to set it free.
You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in their lawsuits. Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and those in the right, for I will not acquit the guilty. You shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the officials, and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.
You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.

Colossians 2:16-23

Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.

Warnings against False Teachers

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”? All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings. These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-imposed piety, humility, and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in checking self-indulgence.


Every group has naysayers

God gives every team a naysayer. It is what separates us from the lemmings.Tweet: God gives every team a naysayer. It is what separates us from the lemmings.

Lemmings video game

Naysayers keep us from marching off cliffs when we get passionate about the direction we are going. At their best, they also act like bumpers in the bowling lane or guard rails that keep us moving in the right direction by preventing us from getting off course. They are made to be not only guardians of the faith1, but guardians of the mission.

People are not born naysayers. We are created by being put in groups where we feel like an outsider while everyone else seems to want to move quickly. It’s a reaction to feeling out of control. In a group, we naysayers often function as the voice that calls everyone back to unity, precisely because we feel out of place ourselves. If we let our feelings of discomfort drive us instead of guide us, we can shift from being naysayers to becoming full stumbling-blocks.


Crossing the line from naysayer to stumbling-block

We cross the line from naysayer to stumbling-block when we begin to let our personal problems drive our decisions within the team. No, I’m not talking about psychological disorders. I mean our personal grudges and grievances we carry with us. Jesus called this unforgiveness and He taught that it prevented us from receiving forgiveness ourselves and living in grace (or working in teams well). These grudges against people or grievances about past experiences not only color, the cloud our perspective of reality and prevent us from seeing the potential in front of us. They cause comments such as:

What good can come from Nazareth?

Sometimes it is not just our bad experiences that misguide us. Our good experiences can lead us to be a stumbling-block for others as well, particularly if they have not shared them. We let our personal agendas get in the way of the work of the team. Oh, but surely there is a win-win situation… a way for everyone to get their way. With a lot of work and compromise, most of us can come to a lukewarm arrangement that pleases no one in particular, but is the least offensive – often because it entails the least amount of real change or movement. So instead we go on the aggressive by putting our thoughts in their minds by saying:

Don’t you think we should…

Instead of being direct by claiming our role on the team saying:

I think we should…

Our criticism for personal reasons show our lack of faith and hope, not only for the group, but for the mission as well. Since we are not part of the solution, we become or continue to be part of the problem. Where there is no hope, we can expect non responsible leadership.

It is difficult for us to handle sometimes because the reality is that most change happens incrementally, not instantaneously. Those who become stumbling-blocks for personal reasons are often not the guardian types who can say that they do not feel comfortable with the direction the group is going. These stumbling-blocks are idealists who, comfort aside, do not see the group following their own agendas.

Paul and Moses, and every other leader has dealt with stumbling-blocks, perhaps even been one themselves. There is hope for those of us who find ourselves in that precarious position though.

Stepping Stones

Constructive Criticism for the sake of building up the Body

Real teamwork is about doing the right thing, not the easy thing. At it’s best, criticism is used to sharpen the group as a whole, helping them to be better. It is meant to be a tool of encouragement, not discouragement. As we use constructive criticism to prune our growth, we grow even more, and the body is built up and made stronger. Instead of being stumbling-blocks, we become stepping stones, lifting others up higher as we help them grow.

Who are you lifting up?

How is this criticism helping fulfill the mission?

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  1. Sometimes there has been a misidentification between “guardians” of the faith and “purifiers” or “reformers” of the faith. Guardians protect the forward momentum and stable identity of a group. Purifiers and reformers seek to change the direction or identity of the group. Theoretically guardians do not get along with the other two types unless the guardians can be won over.