"My Way or the Wrong Way" [1 Corinthians 8]

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By Lisa Moore

First Corinthians was written by Paul to the Corinth church in response to several areas in which there was confusion and division.  In chapter 8 Paul is addressing the issue of whether or not it was spiritually correct to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols.  And in his response Paul tackles the difficult subject of how we as Christians are to balance exercising our freedom in Christ with our responsibility of restricting our freedom when it comes to edifying others.

The matter of whether or not to eat the meat may seem a trivial one to us, but to the people of Corinth it was a very important matter.  Almost all social gatherings had a religious connotation, and usually all of the meat sold in the marketplace had been sacrificed to idols in the pagan temples.  Some believers were concerned that by eating the meat they were defiling themselves or participating in idol worship.  Others who were more knowledgeable in the Gospel knew they were free to eat with no condemnation.  As 1 Timothy 4:4 tells us, "For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude."

In ancient Greek culture knowledge was everything.  The Corinthians prided themselves in all that they knew, including some members of the church.  Paul begins by explaining the difference between worldly knowledge and spiritual knowledge.  "Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge.  Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.  If anyone supposes that he knows anything he has not yet known as he ought to know; but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.", (vs. 1-3)  Worldly knowledge can lead to arrogance and cause us to promote ourselves.  But knowledge that is led by the Spirit and expressed with godly love frees us to serve Him and His people.  

Paul then goes on to say that since as Christians they knew that, "...there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one." (v. 4),  they were free to eat the meat.  Question answered, problem solved right?  After all Paul, the founder of the church would surely be the authority on the issue.  There was his way and the wrong way.  But instead of Paul focusing on being right, he took this opportunity to teach about how as followers of Jesus we are to willingly and lovingly restrict our freedoms for the sake of others.  

Paul cautions that our behaviors can detrimentally impact those around us.  In this instance it was immature members of the church who didn't feel at liberty to eat the sacrificed meat. He warned that by seeing fellow believers partake, they would become confused, and stumble back into their old ways.  "For if someone sees you who have knowledge, dining in an idol's temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols?  For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died.", (vs. 10-11)  

Have you ever really stopped to think about how your actions and decisions can affect fellow believers?  Have you ever been in a situation where you knew you were free in Christ to participate but declined for the benefit of another?  For example, lets say you're at a New Years Eve party.  At the strike of midnight you raise your glass of champagne ready to toast and drink.  Yet as you do, you notice a fellow Christian who struggles with alcohol watching. What do you do?  Paul tells us the right response is to set the glass down.  Better to limit our own freedom than to cause a weaker believer to sin.  It's natural for our first concern to be our needs and rights.  But if we follow the teaching of Paul, all we do will be with the view of glorifying God, edifying His people, and growing His kingdom.

We are all familiar with John 15:13 which says, "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends."  Love dictates that as followers of Jesus we want the best for all of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  But what about our prejudices, biases, opinions, rights, and political views?  We need to ask ourselves if we are willing in love to lay those down so that others can better know Jesus.   


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