Weak and Strong, Part 2
I Corinthians 8:9, 12 But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak…But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.
I Corinthians 10:28-33 But if anyone says to you, “This was offered to idols,” do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience’s sake; for “the earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness.” “Conscience,” I say, not your own, but that of the other. For why is my liberty judged by another man’s conscience? Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.
In the days of the early church, it was a real issue if the meat presented to you had been offered to an idol. For those that understood Christian freedom, it wasn’t a problem, as they understood it as coming from God. They gave thanks, and ate. But for others, who were younger in the faith and/or had reasons why the offering to idols was a stumbling block, it was a genuine reason not to partake of it.
The issue Paul addresses here is not primarily whether one should eat of the meat; he addresses that issue earlier in the same chapter. What he is focusing on here is the behavior and attitude of heart of those who have no problem with their consciences in eating the meat, but know that others in their presence do.
We can read the scriptures above as limitations on our Christian liberty. Or we can see just how expansive and grand our liberty is. We are free before God to eat the meat if the idol issue isn’t part of the equation. But it does become part of the equation when there are differing beliefs and matters of conscience with others in your presence.
Paul hits the nail on the head for most of us when he says, in our place, “For why is my liberty judged by another man’s conscience?” He then goes on to tell us not to give any offense to anyone else for their conscience’s sake, all for the sake of the gospel and the glory of God.
In truth, our liberties are not impinged by such a circumstance. In fact, our liberties are more affirmed than ever. Yes, you may eat the meat in good conscience before God in one circumstance; you are free to do that. Yet in another circumstance, you don’t have to, because you are free to love and “in honor [give] preference to one another” (Romans 12:10b). That’s love in action. And it’s our freedom in action as well.
Most of us don’t face the idol situation today. But having an alcoholic drink may well be a stumbling block for others, either for reasons of doctrine or personal reasons (struggles with personal alcoholism, associations with abusive alcoholics). And of course there are many other things that can be stumbling blocks for others. It may feel that there are limits placed on our freedom when faced with situations like these, but in actually, these scenarios just confirm how very free we are.
Prayer: Lord, help me to love You and others enough to give up a right or two for the sake of the gospel and loving others. Remind me that I am free in You to do that with grace. Thank You for that freedom!