Monday nights I’m part of a Bible Study with some guys from the Kent State Navigators, and we’re studying 1 Corinthians. I love that book, and I’ve gotta say that a lot of what Paul says in this letter could be taken as a pretty strong indictment of America, and American Christians.
The American idea of Freedom –which few will argue is a bad thing– has come to pollute Christianity. Yes, we are free in Christ, free from the old Jewish law, free from condemnation. Unfortunately, all to often this “freedom” is taken as a license to kill.
The apostle Paul had a different take.
In 1 Corinthians 8 he is talking to the Corinthian church about eating food sacrificed to idols. He first tells them that they are free to do so–eating this food is neither harmful nor beneficial to them spiritually, and thus they should have no qualms over the source of the food. HOWEVER, he then goes on to state:
Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall. (1 Cor 8:9-13)
Paul would rather go without eating meat than exercise his “God-given right” to eat this meat. His thoughts are for the benefit of others rather than himself! This theme of loving your neighbor as yourself pops up all over the Bible, but oddly enough those most vehement to point out the Biblical truths regarding freedom in Christ are often the most blatant transgressors of the Biblical truths concerning putting the interests of others ahead of your own interests. (1 Cor 10:24)
Here’s a simple rule of thumb: any time you’re speaking with someone about the “rightness” of something and they are not convinced, you must refrain from indulging in that action in their presence. If you ever think “but it’s my God-given right, and if they don’t understand, that’s their problem,” you are most definitely in the wrong.