Corinthians – Belief and Behavior
As parents of a toddler who is learning to walk, we work hard to take away all the obstacles in the room to avoid stumbling and tripping. We want them to have a clear path as they learn to walk instead of crawl through life. Hold that thought.
We are saved from sin’s entanglements and snares when we repent of sin, accept Jesus as our Savior and choose to commit to following Him as our Lord. The Holy Spirit is now our guide and help in all things. Hallelujah! We do not become know-it-alls, however, because of our new found freedom. Evil still wants to trip us up and cause others to trip and fall, too.
Pride comes to everyone in all forms. As new Christians, (not perfect but perfectly forgiven), we think we are invincible and suddenly invulnerable to sin and risk it all by going back to the old way of life. “I can handle it,” we say. But what if that trips up a person who watches our life and looks to us for the way to their salvation and get confused by our behavior?
Paul addressed that very issue in our next passage. What happens to meat sacrificed by idols? This is the issue for the Corinthian church gone wild who is accepting all worldly behavior while looking for excuses to justify their sin. Paul causes them to think about it in another way with great wisdom.
1 Corinthians 8, The Message
Freedom with Responsibility
1-3 The question keeps coming up regarding meat that has been offered up to an idol: Should you attend meals where such meat is served, or not? We sometimes tend to think we know all we need to know to answer these kinds of questions—but sometimes our humble hearts can help us more than our proud minds. We never really know enough until we recognize that God alone knows it all.
4-6 Some people say, quite rightly, that idols have no actual existence, that there’s nothing to them, that there is no God other than our one God, that no matter how many of these so-called gods are named and worshiped they still don’t add up to anything but a tall story. They say—again, quite rightly—that there is only one God the Father, that everything comes from him, and that he wants us to live for him. Also, they say that there is only one Master—Jesus the Messiah—and that everything is for his sake, including us. Yes. It’s true.
7 In strict logic, then, nothing happened to the meat when it was offered up to an idol. It’s just like any other meat. I know that, and you know that. But knowing isn’t everything. If it becomes everything, some people end up as know-it-alls who treat others as know-nothings. Real knowledge isn’t that insensitive.
We need to be sensitive to the fact that we’re not all at the same level of understanding in this. Some of you have spent your entire lives eating “idol meat,” and are sure that there’s something bad in the meat that then becomes something bad inside of you. An imagination and conscience shaped under those conditions isn’t going to change overnight.
8-9 But fortunately God doesn’t grade us on our diet. We’re neither commended when we clean our plate nor reprimanded when we just can’t stomach it. But God does care when you use your freedom carelessly in a way that leads a fellow believer still vulnerable to those old associations to be thrown off track.
10 For instance, say you flaunt your freedom by going to a banquet thrown in honor of idols, where the main course is meat sacrificed to idols. Isn’t there great danger if someone still struggling over this issue, someone who looks up to you as knowledgeable and mature, sees you go into that banquet? The danger is that he will become terribly confused—maybe even to the point of getting mixed up himself in what his conscience tells him is wrong.
11-13 Christ gave up his life for that person. Wouldn’t you at least be willing to give up going to dinner for him—because, as you say, it doesn’t really make any difference? But it does make a difference if you hurt your friend terribly, risking his eternal ruin! When you hurt your friend, you hurt Christ. A free meal here and there isn’t worth it at the cost of even one of these “weak ones.” So, never go to these idol-tainted meals if there’s any chance it will trip up one of your brothers or sisters.
Think about it…
–He is God and we are not. We do not know it all. Only God.
–Is it worth the cost of tripping up a brother or sister looking at our behavior as a measure of who Christ is in us?
–“When we hurt our friend, we hurt Christ!”
–Nothing…drinking alcohol that lessens your ability to think wisely, abusing prescription drugs, going to places that are dark and known to others as a place to misbehave, over eating to gluttonous proportions, anything that causes another person watching to wonder and say, “I thought they followed Christ?” is not cherishing your freedom in Christ responsibly.
–When in doubt, don’t.
–“Never go”…if there is a chance it will trip up a family member, friends from church or close co-workers who are seeking Christ or who are new in the faith.
–And no, we are human and we can’t “handle it”.
“Yes, it does make a difference.” –– Paul
Dear Heavenly Father,
You have saved us and redeemed at a high price, the cost of Jesus’ sacrificed life. How can we think of tripping another person up on their journey to You by our behavior and lack of sacrifice? But sometimes we do. We repent of those times. Keep us focused on You. Holy Spirit, guide us.
Transform me. Transform your church. Transform the world.
In Jesus Name, and by Your power working in and through us.
Amen. I believe.