Our reading today finishes Paul’s instructions on food sacrificed to idols. His main focus though is not the food but the attitude of the one eating. Is what you are doing bringing glory to God? If not, then stop. If so, then continue.
The last verse in our reading gives the most practical example possible; “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (verse 11:1). WWJD. What would Jesus do in this situation or that situation? That is what Paul strives to ask himself then do. Now he asks his readers to do the same.
So what is it he is wanting his readers to imitate him in? It is in putting others’ needs and spiritual growth above our wants and “freedoms.” If what I’m about to do will offend my brother or cause him to stumble, regardless if I believe it to not be a sin, I will not do it.
I’m not talking about praising God or praying. I’m referring to the things that divide us. The big one Paul was addressing had to do with the Corinthian’s “layovers” on the way to their table. He is NOT authorizing this group to eat food in a pagan temple from a pagan alter. What he is allowing is that they don’t need to be concerned with where the food in the market’s steps have taken it when they buy it. If they KNOW it came from a pagan alter as part of a sacrifice, then by all means, avoid it.
This is reminds me of like the Army moto, “Don’t ask, don’t tell” but for a different reason. The food’s path to market is not relevant to a mature believer. But it is to a beginning believer. If the mature believer isn’t seeking this information but is provided with it from another source, that source is probably watching to see what the believer will do.
Paul says that for the conscience sake of the other, the mature believer is to refrain from eating what is suspect. Not out of concern for yourself or your salvation but out of love for your brother. An example of this in my world would be not serving pork when I have family, who believe it to be sin to eat it, coming for dinner. Out of love I forego my freedom. This way they won’t be tempted to eat it and incur sin on their part. And I won’t be guilty of placing a stumbling block before my brother.
My brother needs time to work out his “freedoms” between himself and God. I can’t push or pull him into my beliefs without hurting him. If I drag him in he comes in through sin. That is NOT how God has planned to show him His love. God will bring each of us to His perfect place for us, IN HIS TIME. I have to stand back and let Him work. It is His work and His glory for the final change. He may ask me to play a part in that plan but I have to listen closely to His instructions and stay within His boundaries. In all that I do, I have to be doing it for Him.
I’m reading a book right now called Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar and it is about Rahab. One scene sticks out in my mind that fits very well with Paul’s directions. Rahab’s family was receiving instructions on the Hebrew laws before being allowed to move into the camp. Rahab’s sister had a beautiful tunic made of a mix of wool and linen fibers. This was forbidden under the law. Rahab told her sister “Do it for the Lord. Don’t do it because of the rules, or because of Israel. If you do it for Him, you will have joy. If you do it for them, you’ll end up with a lot of resentment.” That is how God wants us to view our giving up our “freedoms.” Then God gets the glory through our love for Him and His care for His weaker children.
Father God, thank You for showing me practically what Your lessons mean. Thank You for opening my eyes to how I was hurting members of my family with my freedoms. You have made this real for me and I pray I never lose this lesson. I will wait for You to bring Your freedoms to my family too. Let my love for You shine in their eyes instead. Help me always direct them to You and give You all the glory for the changes in all of us.