That wet weather helped us discover another problem. The property directly north of us drained all over us. We are on a slight grade, one you hardly notice until a summer downpour comes washing down from the neighboring land. I will never forget the day I stood at the front door and watched a six inch deep torrent rush under the house, then raced to the opposite windows to see it come churning out. I knew we were in big trouble. The summer rains had barely begun and we were also in the middle of hurricane season. In short order we would be washed away.
We have a law, at least here in Florida, which says you are responsible for what your property does to neighboring property. One of the neighbors found out the hard way when they did something on their property that left another neighbor in an undrainable, and un-drivable, swamp. The ones who caused the situation refused to fix it. “It’s not our problem,” they said. The neighbors who could no longer access their home had to call the sheriff, who sent out deputies to tell those selfish folks, “It is too your problem—you caused it,” and to make them repair the mess so their neighbors could once again get in and out of their land.
The owners of the land just north of us, people who had bought it as an investment and did not live there, knew about that law, too. All we had to do was make a phone call, and they sent out the equipment to dig a ditch along that north side that led straight to the run on the east where we started this walk, so their land could drain around us instead of through us. Yes, it was a law, but at least we didn’t have to call the sheriff to get them to act. In fact, they were quite nice about it and did not leave until they were certain we were satisfied.
God has a law too. It goes like this: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. Mark 9:42. Paul spent a couple of chapters in both Romans (14) and 1 Corinthians (8) telling us the same thing. Everything we do has an influence on people who see or hear us, whether we know they see or hear us or not.
I’ve heard people say things like, “I can do whatever I want to do. That’s his/her problem.” No, it isn’t. It’s your problem when you want to claim to be a disciple of Jesus but do not follow his example. We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” Rom 15:1-3.
We influence people for good or ill by what we wear, how we speak, how we react to others, especially the unkindness of others, and any number of other things. God expects us to be aware of how our speech and behavior effects the world, and not only that, to care.
Wouldn’t it be a shame if the world had to call “the Sheriff” on us?
So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. Rom 14:12-13.