MONDAY, MARCH 12
SCRIPTURE: 1 CORINTHIANS 8
As was the case in the previous chapter, this chapter appears to be written in response to letter full of questions from the Corinthian church. That is a pretty neat concept when you think about it. How many times have we run up on something that we just couldn’t quite figure out, that we just couldn’t quite understand and have, in turn, looked for an answer from someone who should know? In this case the Corinthian church knew that Paul would know. So, they sent him this series of questions. Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to do that?
The previous chapter probably felt very practical. It was, after all, about marriage and divorce and being single. This chapter, however, deals with eating meat sacrificed to idols. So, at first glance, this one might seem a little less practical. I don’t remember the last time I was at a meat counter in a store and saw some meat that had been sacrificed to idols.
But it was a significant problem in Corinth. The city was a most immoral place and one of the causes of that immorality was the amount of idolatry that was practiced in the city. In fact, there were a lot of civic activities and celebrations and parties that were centered around the worship of particular idols. It was not uncommon for parts of an animal to be sacrificed to an idol and then rest of that animal show up at a “butcher’s shop” or be cooked right there and eaten during the ensuing celebration.
So, the big question in this chapter is this. Is it OK for a Christ follower to eat meat that had been sacrificed to an idol?
As the chapter opens, the issue of knowledge is mentioned. It would seem that perhaps the folks at the Corinthian church may have suggested that they were smart enough to figure this one out. But Paul reminded them that knowledge (without relationship) puffs up. In other words, gaining knowledge without understanding application or connection with others leads to arrogance.
On the other hand, Paul reminds them and us that love builds up.
The real issue in this chapter is between liberty and love. The question was is it OK for Christ followers to eat the food that had been sacrificed to an idol. As Paul states in this chapter, an idol is literally nothing. Therefore, any food sacrificed to an idol could not be contaminated or defiled.
On other hand, a Christ follower who was young in the faith or perhaps even someone who was not a Christ follower yet but was watching, could have been very offended to see a Christ follower eating meat sacrificed to an idol. Their offense would have come from a lack of understanding.
That’s where the struggle between liberty and love comes in. Paul would say that Christians are free to eat that meat. But he would also ask is that the best thing. Specifically, he would ask about the possibility of someone else being offended by that. Paul’s answer in this situation is that if someone were going to be offended then the Christian should not eat the meat.
Christian liberty is a most important issue. But our love for others has to rule the day. This is the old battle between privilege and responsibility. Suffice it to say that responsibility should win that battle every time.