Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know thatWe all possess knowledge.But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.1 Corinthians 8:1
The best meat in Corinth was found right next to the idol temple. In these pagan temples live animals were sacrificed. Like the Jews, they reserved some of this meat for their priests and for public sale. So, the best meat markets in Corinth were right next to an idol temple. Everyone in town knew that if you ate some of that meat you were eating meat that had been offered to an idol. So, the question arose among the Christians:
If a Christian eats meat offered to an idol is he somehow participating in the worship of that idol?
A group within the church was saying,
Yes, that’s exactly what happens. When these local pagans see a known Christian sitting in the public restaurant next to the temple, enjoying a steak that had been offered to the idol, they will think that person agrees with with the pagan ideas about that idol. As a consequence, that Christian is giving a false testimony; he is not clearly declaring that Christ has replaced all idols. Furthermore, he is causing weak Christians to stumble, ones who might easily be led back into worship of an idol by their actions.
But there was another party that said,
No, that’s not true. An idol is nothing but a piece of wood or stone. How can you worship something that really does not exist? How can we deliver people from their idolatrous ways if we act as if there is something to this? It is better that we act according to the knowledge of reality that God has brought us to in Christ. Let's enjoy our freedom and eat this meat without any question. It is perfectly good meat, and it would be wrong to not use it. So, there was a division within the church.
Paul's argument is that such problems cannot be solved merely based on,
We know such and such and so and so to be true, therefore, we are free to act.
No, Paul says,
knowledge or doctrine alone is not enough. You need love. Knowledge puffs up but love builds up. Love looks at somebody else's situation, not always one's own. Knowledge, in other words, is self-centered, but love reaches out to include someone else in your thinking.
Dr. H. A. Ironside gave an illustration of this. He was at a picnic with other Christians, including a man converted from Islam. A girl brought a basket of sandwiches to this man and offered one. He said,
What kind are they? She said,
All we have left are ham or pork. He said,
Don't you have any beef? She replied,
No, they're all gone.
Well, he said,
then I won't have any. Knowing he was a Christian, she said,
Well, sir, I am really surprised. Don't you know that as a Christian you are freed from food restrictions, and you can eat pork or ham or whatever you like? He said,
Yes, I know I am free to eat pork, but I am also free not to eat it. I'm still involved with my family in the Middle East, and I know that when I go home each year, and come to my father's door, the first question he will ask is,
Have those infidels taught you to eat the filthy hog meat yet? If I have to say,
Yes, father, I will be banished from that home and have no further witness in it. But if I can always say,
No, father, no pork has ever passed my lips, then I have admittance to the family circle and I am free to tell them of the joy I have found in Jesus Christ. Therefore I am free to eat, or I am free not to eat, as the case may be.
That story sets this problem in proper perspective. We do not have to claim our right to freedom based on knowledge. We are free to give up our rights anytime the situation warrants. Though we have the rights, we also have the right not to exercise them for the sake of love.
Help me, Father, to act in love in what I do and not act merely in knowledge alone. Thank you for the truth that sets me free, but also for the love that still restrains me and makes me give consideration to someone else's welfare.
God's love for us sets us free to make loving choices. Do our relationships demonstrate thoughtful responses which originate in godly love?