I Corinthians 8:1-13 (NRSV)
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Chapter 8Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that "all of us possess knowledge." Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Verse 2Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; Verse 3but anyone who loves God is known by him.
Verse 4Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that "no idol in the world really exists," and that "there is no God but one." Verse 5Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth-as in fact there are many gods and many lords- Verse 6yet 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.
Verse 7It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Verse 8"Food will not bring us close to God." We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. Verse 9But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. Verse 10For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols? Verse 11So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed. Verse 12But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Verse 13Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall.
So many issues and problems in the world, in the church, and in our lives. So much division and strife. Where do we begin? The Apostle Paul argues that love for others takes priority over knowledge and personal rights and freedom. Paul asks what would be the most loving thing to do to build up others as we deal with any issue. This is a tough word. It is a Garden of Gethsemane word. “Not what I want, but what you want,” Jesus prayed. Love is a word that speaks with the authority of God. That word is proclaimed in the life of Jesus, and it is commanded to those who would follow him. What is the loving thing to do for our neighbor? Is that being naïve? Yes. It is even foolishness, says Paul. But love is the power of God at work in our lives and in our world. As hard as it may be, it is the way of our Savior and God.
Loving God, help us look beyond our wants and our rights and our freedom to reflect on what may be the most loving action for our neighbor, that we may build up one another in love. Amen.