“Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” (1 Corinthians 8:8-9 ESV)
One thing that you will quickly find among Christians is that not everyone agrees on everything. I have actually heard about church splits because of the color of the carpet in the sanctuary. But along those lines, not all Christians agree on what is right and what is wrong. For one, the questionable matter may be black and white, and to another it may be gray. One may feel that a person should not go to a certain place, whereas another sees nothing wrong with it. One may feel that doing a certain thing is wrong while another sees nothing wrong in doing it.
So what is right and wrong? How far does Christian freedom go in regard to discretionary behavior not specifically forbidden in Scripture? Many behaviors, are not commanded, commended, or forbidden in Scripture. They are neither black nor white, but gray. Such issues in one age or area may not be the same as those in other times or places, but every age and every Christian has to deal with the gray areas of Christian living.
1 Corinthians chapters 8-10 deal with the church’s questions about meat offered to idols. The Greeks sacrificed animals to their idols. The meat was served at large cafeterias near the temple – and much of it made its way to the meat market. So when you went down to Food Lion to pick up a T-bone, chances are that meat had been offered to an idol.
Many Corinthian believers saw no problem with eating meat that had formerly been utilized at a pagan temple. Meat was neither clean nor unclean to many. (Christians) argued that since idols were “nothing,” they were free to eat the meat.
Through this debate in the early Church the Apostle Paul presents to us four questions that I hope will assist you and me in making good decisions about gray areas.
1. Will I become spiritually prideful?
“Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know.” 1 Corinthians 8:1-2 (NKJV).
Knowledge without love corrupts us. We have to be careful that we don’t develop a prideful and arrogant attitude towards others on the gray issues. Just because a certain matter doesn’t bother my conscience does not mean that I am better than others. People are at different places in their journey of faith. This requires us to be understanding and considerate of others.
2. Will I cause someone else to stumble?
“But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” 1 Corinthians 8:9 (NASB)
As mature believers we are called to think about others not just ourselves. Because God uses the conscience to guide people, we should respect the conscience of other believers. In the name of Christian freedom, many believers have been spiritually mislead and hurt. Cautiously use your freedom in Christ remembering other believers map need guidance.
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
3. Are we setting the right example to others?
“For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols?”
1 Corinthians 8:10 (NKJV).
Everyone influences someone! We live in a world that needs people to be good examples. Do not shy away from offering yourself as an ethical model for believers.
“For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you,” (2 Thessalonians 3:7 ESV).
4. Am I building others up in their faith?
“And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died.” (1 Corinthians 8:11 ESV).
We really do have a greater responsibility to help other followers of Christ to grow in their faith. It should be our desire to live a life that lifts others up not carelessly pulls others down.
“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. (1 Corinthians 10:23 ESV).
Tom Landry, legendary coach of the Dallas Cowboys once said, “Most successful football players not only accept rules and limitations, they need them. (They) are free to perform at their best only when they know what the expectations are and where the limits stand, you can’t enjoy true freedoms without limits.”