Paul says we Christians are running a race. Here's what I'm looking at on my run toward Christ.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Christian Freedom Gone Wrong

Please read 1 Corinthians chapter 8.  It is a very short chapter.

In this chapter the apostle Paul was addressing a question the church at Corinth had.  They wondered if it was okay to eat meet that had been sacrificed to an idol.  Paul answers this question but before he does he adds this key phrase, "knowledge puffs up, but love builds up."

Paul says that eating meat that had been sacrificed to an idol is absolutely not wrong.  It isn't wrong because the idols aren't really gods.  God is the only God.  See, in Corinth if you shopped in the marketplace and bought meat, it was likely that the meat purchased had been previously sacrificed to an idol.  Paul assured Christians that they need not worry about this in itself being a sin.

However, Paul did not encourage Christians to go out and flaunt their freedom to eat this meat.  Paul realized that some in the church at Corinth wouldn't know that it's okay to eat this meat.  To these people the eating of this meat was haunting their consciences.  In fact, if they believed it to be sinning if they ate this meat, then acting out this supposed sin would be a sin because they'd be, in their minds, intentionally defying God.

Paul never said, "Grow up you immature Christians.  Increase your knowledge about these things and lay off those eating meat."  No.  Instead, Paul says this to those okay with eating meat:

"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 Corinthians 8:9-13

Just because you know something is permissible does not mean you should do it.  We must remember others when we make decisions.  We must, as a church, submit one to another.  We must remember that Christ died for those in our church, not just for us.

See, when we flaunt our freedom in Christ and cause our brothers to fret we are not being loving.  When we do this we are being selfish.  When we do this we sin not just against them but against Christ as well.

So, the next time you want to exercise a freedom you have in Christ, ask these questions:

1) Does it puff me up or build others up in love?

2) Does it distress those around me?

If the freedom you're exercising builds another up... do it.  If it is a non-factor to another... do it.  But if it distresses them and hurts them... don't do it.  "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up."

As a footnote, remember that this passage works the other way as well.  To those of you distressed by something not forbidden by God, don't enforce those beliefs on others.  You are responsible to love them in the same way they are responsible to love you.  If something bothers you, voice your concern in a way that doesn't seem as if you are forcing a man-made rule on another Christian.  If they are loving they will not exercise that freedom in your presence.

Bottom line: submit one to another... love one another today.

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