Monday, August 13, 2018

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Love!

The Apostle Paul’s focus was always on others in his quest to build the kingdom.  In some cases this was to the benefit of the unconverted and in other cases it was to help build up believers whose faith had not yet fully matured.  In either event he knew that religious traditions or cultural norms could stand in the way of demonstrating the love of Jesus to the folks God had put in his path.  He boldly proclaims his great liberty in Christ that unshackles us from the demands of the Law, yet at the same time he prioritizes love over liberty.  Given his great intellectual prowess, he could have won the argument and lost the soul.

1 Corinthians 8:9 - Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.

Things to think about:
·      The issue at hand was the eating of meat that had been sacrificed to idols.  For some of the Corinthians this was a problem because it gave the impression that it was OK to eat meat that had been tainted by being in a religious ceremony they didn’t believe in.
·      For Paul, it was no big deal because “an idol is nothing” and “there is no God but one” so if people wanted to fire up the grill to a false god, he didn’t care, he was happy to eat the choice meat.
o   He said that food doesn’t make us closer to God or push us further away
·      The problem is that not everyone fully understood this so for them to eat sacrificed meat was a sin.
·      What are permissible choices we can make today that may not be wrong in and of themselves but can confuse or alienate a less mature saint?
o   Smoking, drinking in moderation, various styles of clothing, language, entertainment choices, church practices/rituals, etc.
·      Paul’s main point here is that we should be careful to not become a stumbling block to the weak, that their welfare is always superior to our knowledge.
o   1 Corinthians 8:10-13 - For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols?  So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.  Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.
o   If it’s not wrong to eat meat sacrificed to idols, what is the sin Paul is speaking of here?
o   Based on some of the hot button topics above (or other ones you can think of), how can we cause weaker brothers and sisters to stumble?
o   What different choice would you be willing to make to change this?
·      Please note that Paul says when we make what are essentially selfish choices, we are actually the ones who are sinning!
·      How did Jesus model the principle Paul is teaching?
o   See Philippians 2:6

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