Being and Becoming Christian
Consider this scenario…you begin a new job. You are told to read the handbook thoroughly. You do. You even sign a paper saying that you did. Now you are thrown into the work situation with others who have been there obviously longer than you have. Their actions do not reflect what you learned from the handbook that you just finished pouring over and studying so that you would be ready to work beside them. But you are new, so you look at what they do, not what the handbook says, and follow what they do. They even tell you, “Yeah, the book probably says how it should be done, but this is how it really works.”
This can be a frustrating contradiction for you. Now you have to learn the “unwritten rules” of the workplace and decide what is best for you. Mm. Have you ever been in this spot? I have…in and out of the church workplace, as well as the world workplace.
Paul has great advice with how to handle situations such as this as he talks about the dispute over whether to eat meat that was sacrificed to idols. Go deeper and pick up on the bottom line that Paul is trying to get us to see and do.
1 Corinthians 8, The Message
Freedom with Responsibility
8 1-3 The question keeps coming up regarding meat that has been offered up to an idol: Should you attend meals where such meat is served, or not? We sometimes tend to think we know all we need to know to answer these kinds of questions—but sometimes our humble hearts can help us more than our proud minds. We never really know enough until we recognize that God alone knows it all.
4-6 Some people say, quite rightly, that idols have no actual existence, that there’s nothing to them, that there is no God other than our one God, that no matter how many of these so-called gods are named and worshiped they still don’t add up to anything but a tall story. They say—again, quite rightly—that there is only one God the Father, that everything comes from him, and that he wants us to live for him. Also, they say that there is only one Master—Jesus the Messiah—and that everything is for his sake, including us. Yes. It’s true.
7 In strict logic, then, nothing happened to the meat when it was offered up to an idol. It’s just like any other meat. I know that, and you know that. But knowing isn’t everything. If it becomes everything, some people end up as know-it-alls who treat others as know-nothings. Real knowledge isn’t that insensitive.
We need to be sensitive to the fact that we’re not all at the same level of understanding in this. Some of you have spent your entire lives eating “idol meat,” and are sure that there’s something bad in the meat that then becomes something bad inside of you. An imagination and conscience shaped under those conditions isn’t going to change overnight.
8-9 But fortunately God doesn’t grade us on our diet. We’re neither commended when we clean our plate nor reprimanded when we just can’t stomach it. But God does care when you use your freedom carelessly in a way that leads a fellow believer still vulnerable to those old associations to be thrown off track.
10 For instance, say you flaunt your freedom by going to a banquet thrown in honor of idols, where the main course is meat sacrificed to idols. Isn’t there great danger if someone still struggling over this issue, someone who looks up to you as knowledgeable and mature, sees you go into that banquet? The danger is that he will become terribly confused—maybe even to the point of getting mixed up himself in what his conscience tells him is wrong.
11-13 Christ gave up his life for that person. Wouldn’t you at least be willing to give up going to dinner for him—because, as you say, it doesn’t really make any difference? But it does make a difference if you hurt your friend terribly, risking his eternal ruin! When you hurt your friend, you hurt Christ. A free meal here and there isn’t worth it at the cost of even one of these “weak ones.” So, never go to these idol-tainted meals if there’s any chance it will trip up one of your brothers or sisters.
Points to ponder…
–Be Humble. Come to every situation with humility…”sometimes our humble hearts can help us more than our proud minds.”
–Be a Learner. “We never really know enough until we recognize that God alone knows it all.”
–Be Wise with a Pure Heart. Nothing happened to the meat when it was offered to an idol because we don’t believe in idols in the first place. We only believe in God. God does not grade us on our diet. He does judge our hearts motivation and what flows from that heart.
–Be sensitive. “We need to be sensitive to the fact that we’re not all at the same level of understanding in this.”
–Be responsible with your freedom. If what we do hurts a struggling fellow believer, then that is not what God wants. “When you hurt your friend, you hurt Christ.” Paul warns, we should not do anything that would trip up a brother or sister in Christ.
Dear Heavenly Father, Your Word to Your church always goes deeper than we care to go. Like children, Your children, we want all the freedoms of being Christians but sometimes neglect the responsibilities that come with our belief. We repent of being proud and bold, not thinking of others looking up to us, trying to figure out know how to live as true believers. Continue to transform us from the inside out, guiding, convicting and nurturing us so that we will be all You intended for us to be and then do.
In Jesus Name, Amen