Seeing a person’s nudity forces the viewer to stumble into sin.
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.Romans 14:13
Somehow, over the passage of time, this verse has morphed from being an instruction about unity and mutual upbuilding into an excuse to shame women for allowing their outer beauty to be seen or admired by others.
Even though Paul instructs us in the preceding verses, “Do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil,” people continue to regard female bodies as though dangerous and expect women to hide their shapeliness.
While this passage is actually about the freedom to eat food sacrificed to idols, let’s work with the interpretation that a person’s body could be a stumbling block to “weaker” brethren.
If you find someone attractive or notice their outer beauty, have you already committed adultery in your heart? Does the ability to curb lustful thinking really depend on another person’s wardrobe?
A Body is Not a Stumbling Block
Keep reading. Paul is trying to instruct us that liberty welcomes growth. He says,
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.Romans 14:1
And to the weaker person, he asks:
Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.Romans 14:3
Shame creates distance in relationships (including with God).
Shame steals intimacy and prevents us from experientially knowing and loving others deeply.
These verses should never be used to uphold weakness as though it were righteous.
Hebrews 5 and 6 teach us that as Christians, we are to move on from childish milk and grow to eat meat in maturity — not to stay stuck in childish, weak ways forever.
Isn’t it time to grow up?