November 21, 2019- Christian Freedom and Stumbling Blocks- 1 Corinthians 8

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Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. 

Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.”  For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”—  yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.  But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols?  And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 

Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. 1 Corinthians 8 (ESV)

Christian freedom is a subject that the apostle Paul has to approach many times in his ministry.  Either people were guilty of wanting to impose all the old rules on everyone (that they couldn’t keep anyway) or of throwing out all the old rules and doing whatever.

What we do or don’t do should consider the example we show to our neighbor.  Most of us in our culture do not believe that man-made idols are real, and most of us do not sacrifice food in the temples of idols.  Paul was talking about going to the pagan temples to eat and socialize.  Many of the Greek and Roman temples had, for lack of a better word, cafeterias where one could get a meal.  The meats and other foods in these temples would have been offered up to the various pagan gods before being cooked and served up at the buffet.

A Christian who knows that there is only one God and that pagan idols are false gods, can partake of food without worrying whether or not it had been sacrificed to idols, because  food is food.  But if by partaking in the pagans’ food we would cause someone who is on the fence or weak in their faith to waver or fall from faith, we would be sinning against them.

We don’t want to use the freedom we have in Christ to make the road difficult for someone else.

A good example is that some of us do not watch R rated movies because we want to avoid improper or immoral subject matter.  Some of us observe very conservative dress standards, while others are more moderate in clothing choices.  There is only one “rule” we need to consider in those things that are not clearly spelled out in for us in Scripture:  Do our actions serve to strengthen or weaken our brothers’ and sisters’ faith?

Loving our neighbor means that we keep our focus on Christ.  There is plenty of room in God’s kingdom for adiaphora- or those things that are not essential to our faith.

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If one feels that watching a Clint Eastwood film festival is wrong and it would be detrimental to one’s spiritual growth, then by all means, don’t watch Clint Eastwood movies.  But many of us enjoy watching Clint Eastwood (and Chuck Norris and John Wayne) and have no conflict between watching good action movies and living out our faith. We have the freedom to choose and to discern what activities are permissible for us as long as they are not forbidden by God’s Law, and they do not damage the faith of others.

The definition of the Law is love- first for God, and then for those around us. We must always consider the weaker ones and treat each other with gentleness, kindness and consideration.

Our activities are within the realm of Christian freedom if they do not contradict how we are taught to live in Scripture, and if they do not cause our brothers and sisters to stumble.

One definition of this teaching is to meet people where they are.  As long as it does not violate our faith we are free to partake in food, entertainment, fashion, etc., but if by doing so we cause others to doubt their faith, we should respect and honor their customs when we are with them.

Lord, help us to be Your ambassadors and good witnesses to people around us.  Help us to build up others by our examples.