1Cor. 8:9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.
Those who are living as Christ-followers have a responsibility for those around them who are weaker. That responsibility includes teaching and discipling others and also living as an example before them. It’s not just the words that we speak that lead people toward (or away from ) Christ, but specifically the actions of our daily lives.
Paul’s conviction was so great that he made the bold statement that he would “never” engage in doing something again if it made his “brother fall into sin.”
Paul, himself, was follower of Jesus Christ and he was constantly wanting to know more about Christ. While this was true in his personal life, he also understood that he lived out his spiritual life within a community of faith. He took responsibility for the community around him and realized that his actions became a model for the actions of others. Therefore if his actions may not have been a problem for his spiritual life, if it created a problem for others — it was still a problem. He understood his place within the body of Christ and that he was responsible not just for himself but also for others.
When we see ourselves within a context of spiritual community then we have to examine the ways in which we live our lives and the testimony that is revealed through our own behaviors. Early leaders of the holiness movement believed that this was true and it is the key reason that they were concerned with the drinking of alcohol. They were watching as alcoholism was destroying families, leaving women and children abandoned and without support. It was eating away at society and so the spiritual community, as a whole, chose to be a support system for those who were struggling. It’s why communion wine was replaced with juice, because there was an understanding that an alcoholic can’t even have one drink. Interestingly, Thomas Bramwell Welch invented Welch’s Grape Juice because he was a part of the Methodist movement in England and the United States, where they were outspoken in regard to the impact of both slavery and alcohol, and their desire that all people be free! The result was that the holiness community, in solidarity with those who struggled, and in a desire for all humanity to be free, has chosen not to drink.
I’m afraid we have moved away from this corporate understanding of our faith and are much more focused on our personal spiritual lives. The result is that we are not as introspective regarding the far-reaching effects of our behavior. I hear people lament the fact that young people are not as committed to the church as earlier generations may have been. However, our “weaker” children have been raised with inconsistent church attendance. Sports and family events have become a priority and this message has been brought to them by the behaviors of adults that have told them that church is simply not that important.
I was involved in a study regarding the health of pastors and spouses in the Mid-west. We discovered that a majority of the pastors were obese. This is a new problem within the faith community — we are not physically healthy. Now the issue of eating (red) meat may be a serious question! What would happen if, as a community of faith, we took into account our pot-luck dishes and chose to help one another eat healthy!
Paul’s ancient words regarding meat offered to idols speak to us today and step on our toes as we begin to examine our own behaviors in light of the community of faith. Maybe we need to stop justifying ourselves and join Paul in doing whatever we must to help all those with whom we come into contact grow in Christ.
I’m preaching to myself today. Thanks for listening!
Lord, thank you for your challenging words. Amen.
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