“…it is LOVE that strengthens the church” – 1 Corinthians 8:1. What a powerful statement!!! The context of this statement was Paul’s answer to the question of whether or not Christians should eat meat that has been offered to idols, which was a practice in those days. So each believer is faced with the question – Do you love others enough to give something up if it is causing them to stumble?
It’s true that we can’t win God’s approval by what we eat. We don’t lose anything if we don’t eat it and we don’t gain anything if we do. But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble…And when you sin against other believers by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong, you are sinning against Christ. So if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat as long as I live – for I don’t want to cause another believer to stumble (1 Corinthians 8:8-9,12-13).
Paul spent a lot of time on this topic so it must have been a big concern for the Church in their letter to him. Paul’s answer is summed up in the concept of LOVE – loving someone else enough to abstain from something we have no personal conviction about.
You say, “I am allowed to do anything” – but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything” – but not everything is beneficial. Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others (10:23-24).
So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Don’t give offense to Jews or Gentiles or the church of God. I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved. And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ (10:31-33).
Wow! I find those verses SO powerful! Paul’s words in some ways convict me and in some ways inspire me. Reread those last two passages if you do not know what I am talking about.
It’s missional! Sometimes you make a decision based on someone else’s salvation. Sometimes you make a decision in order to prevent someone else from following in your footsteps and consuming something that could potentially destroy them or alter the course of their life. Paul gives each of us a decision to make. What is more important – your freedom to do as you please or someone else’s salvation? He encourages his readers to live a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. He challenges them to aim for harmony among believers, building each other up and never tearing each other down.
So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.
I know and am convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong. And if another believer is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. Then you will not be criticized for doing something you believe is good. For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.
Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble. You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right. But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning. – Romans 14:13-23
Please fill us with your Spirit this morning, Heavenly Father. Nudge us if something we are consuming or something we are saying would hurt someone else this morning. Guide our words and our actions so that we can be used by you to build someone else up today. Lord, there are many different points of disagreement between believers in the church right now. Could you focus our hearts on you so that we can always live in harmony with each other? We love you! Amen.