Concerning Food Sacrificed to Idols
1 Corinthians 8:1 Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. 2 Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. 3 But whoever loves God is known by God. 4 So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. 7 But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. 8 But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do. 9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.
From Acts 15 we read: James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. Simon has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for His Name from the Gentiles. … “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For the Law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”
Still the commentary points out this: Though to those knowing that an idol has no existence, the question of eating meats offered to idols might seem unimportant, it is not so with some, and the infirmities of such should be respected. The portions of the (animals) not offered on the altars belonged partly to the priests, partly to the people who gave the animal; and were eaten at feasts in the temples and in private houses and were often sold in the markets; so that Christians were constantly exposed to the temptation of receiving them, which was forbidden according to the Old Testament as well as what was shared from St James. But Paul does not allude here to that decree, as he rests his precepts rather on his own independent apostolic authority.
That was then and since we are not living in any area or country where this is the practice—how does this apply to us today? Well, we take the last verse and apply it to our own situation namely, “Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.” And since we are not concerned with sacrificial offerings to false gods we merely use the idea that we should not do things which would offend the weaker Christian.
But let me say two things: first of all the 11th Commandment is Thou shalt not give offense, but the 12th is Thou shalt not take offense. Let me also say, both of these commandments are difficult to keep! James put it this way, “All stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.”
Think about it even within the Holy Christian Church. The Adventists are offended because we worship on Sunday. The so-called Christian Church is offended because we call ourselves Lutherans. The Church of Christ is offended because we use musical instruments. The Baptists are offended because we allow for a glass of wine or a bottle of beer. The Pentecostals are offended because we do not speak n tongues. The ELCA is offended (Ecumenical Liberal Conglomeration of America) because we do allow neither women nor practicing homosexuals to be pastors. The WELs are offended because we will have prayer with other Christians. The list goes on.
And then there are the things we say and do within our families, circle of friends, where we work, clubs we belong to and even our congregation which sometimes offends someone, somehow. Sometimes we do not mean to offend, it is just that we didn’t think about it—or didn’t know some surrounding circumstance.
Here’s an example of how I brought hurt to someone who became very special to me. I was brand new to that church and this couple was driving me passed a cemetery. And wanting to perhaps be funny, I said, “People are just dying to get in there.” The wife replied, “That is where we just buried our son.” (Open mouth—put in foot)
But then there is the other side—I call it the Lutheran side—and why? How about the Catechism? “Always put the best construction on everything.”
Every quarter our seminaries put out journals and this last one spoke about this. Within the Church almost every dispute, disagreement, every argument, people getting mad at each other, feeling neglected or whatever—even leaving the church, stems from our not always putting the best construction on what the person said or did. Did what that person said or did was it to hurt or help the church in his own mind? Was he out to destroy or improve? Were the changes in his mind the right thing to do? Almost always—yes!
Then too, the question was asked, does this help or hurt the Gospel? Is this going along with sound doctrine?
Now getting back to our more personal situations, yes there are those who always operate on a me-first-basis, or some people have evil motives. We cannot dismiss that entirely. Some people have certain conditions which cause them to operate in a particular way and we need not keep on excusing them. But for the most part—“Always put the best construction on everything.” And we don’t!
That is where the Gospel comes in—thanks be to God! Christ Jesus did not just die for the murderers or adulterers or the thieves (the biggies!) but also for our everyday sins, the sin of not trying to love one another even as God has loves us and in that love—which covers a multitude of sins—would look the other way, instead of condemning. The sin of not taking the times to stop and think about what we first perceive to be bad, but had we thought it over we would have seen the other side.
I have been wronged but I have also wronged others. Sometimes I should have tried to see the other side. Sometimes I should have thought about something before saying or doing anything. And I am going to say that applies to you also. Love covers a multitude of sin—and at times we have lacked that. So we confess it and say with the publican, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” And God is merciful. And that is why we can sing from the depths of our hearts: Chief of sinners though I be,
Jesus shed His blood for me. Died that I might live on high,
Lived that I might never die. As the branch is to the vine,
I am His and He is mine.
O my Savior, help afford By Your Spirit and Your Word!
When my wayward heart would stray, Keep me in the narrow way;
Grace in time of need supply While I live and when I die.
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