Today’s Reading: 1 Corinthians 8:1-13

The Corinthians have asked Paul “Is it OK to eat food that’s been sacrificed to idols, or should we avoid it? Should we become vegetarians perhaps? Should we remove ourselves from the social contexts of the city?”

Paul’s conclusion is that since there’s only one God, and idols have no real existence, offering food to idols won’t change the food. So we’re free to eat it.

But then we come to the “But.” He says: “It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge.” It’s all very well for the strong believers to be happy to eat anything but what about those whose consciences are weak? What about those who have come out of a strongly pagan world where they were steeped in the whole culture of idol worship; who can’t easily remove the connections they have in their minds between the evil of their pagan past and the food associated with it.

You can imagine someone these days who’d been converted out of a life that hinged around gambling on the races. They’d spent every Saturday afternoon down watching the races, poring over the form guides, betting on the favourite or the long shot, making their fortune then blowing it in an afternoon. Then someone had brought them to Christ and delivered them from the addiction that gambling had become. You can imagine them having great difficulty if one of their Christian friends invited them to go to a day out at a race course. It may be fine for their friend but for them it’s the symbol of everything they’ve been rescued from.

Therefore not only do we have to resolve the matter of what’s clean and what’s unclean. We also need to be discerning about the impact the exercise of our freedom might have on other Christians.

Just because we’re free to do something doesn’t mean we need to. There’s no idea that freedom carries with it an imperative to act. It’s ironic actually the way some people think that because you’re free to do something then you should do it. The result of that sort of thinking is that freedom itself becomes a bondage.

Everything may be permissible but not everything is helpful. In fact you’re no better off one way or the other, once you understand your freedom of choice. But the real question we have to think about is whether our freedom could become a stumbling block for others. We need to ask ourselves will my behaviour build others up? Is love the controlling factor in my behaviour or is it a desire to exert my personal rights.

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