WEEK 20, Day 1, Monday, 11 May 2020

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 11 May 20:

1 Corinthians 8:13 — “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”

The entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 8 deals with how our actions affect others, particularly weaker Christians. Two points jump out at me from this chapter:

First, within the church in Corinth, there were apparently some who still believed that there really were other gods – “Yet for us there is one God…. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.” Though believing that there is no other god but God is an essential truth, Paul urges the church to go out of their way to be considerate of others’ weakness and lack of true understanding — “’knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up.’” How does your church treat those who are holding on to beliefs, traditions, customs, and values which are incorrect but deep rooted? How do you personally handle such people?

Second, Paul encourages the church not to eat meat that had been previously sacrificed to idols (likely the highest quality meat on the market) for the sake of those who still had a weakness with idols. Paul was concerned about doing anything that might be a distraction to some from the Gospel or which might entice former idol worshippers to slip back into idolatry and fall back into the trap of immorality —

– Acts 15:29 – “…that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”

– Acts 21:25 – “But as for the Gentiles who have believed, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality.”

– Revelation 2:14 — But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.

– Revelation 2:20 — But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.

I have heard these verses used most in discussions concerning alcohol – “Should Christians in America drink alcohol knowing that we have such a problem with alcohol in our nation?” It is clear from the Bible that drinking alcohol is not, in isolation, a sin; only drinking in excess is a sin. However, 1 Corinthians 8 puts a greater burden on the decision to drink or not to drink: When you exercise your freedom to drink, how does your behavior influence others who cannot handle the freedom to drink and who would be easily tempted into sin? Should we condone alcohol use in a society that has such a problem with alcohol? This is a highly debated topic within the church.

From our readings today, I would say that if you have any concern that your behavior might cause others to fall into sin because of their weakness, you shouldn’t exercise your freedom for their sake and at your expense. What does it really cost you? Usually just a little comfort or pleasure. This is a small price to pay for your weaker brother or sister. Conversely, should we be overly critical of the Christian who does drink or exercises other freedoms which are generally unbeneficial? I think today’s verses would also tell us, “No.” This is not how the Bible teaches us to handle disputable matters — “’knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up.’” With disputable matters, we should approach others “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:2, 3).” With indisputable matters, such as blasphemous teachings or unrepentant sexual sin, the church must hold firm. I have seen Christians ostracize other Christians who drank socially (not in excess), while turning a blind eye to their own gluttony which the Bible compares to excessive drinking –

– Proverbs 23:20-21 — Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.

– Ezekiel 16:49 — ‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.

– Romans 14:10-21 — Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” (Mark 9:42) Here, “little ones” doesn’t just refer to young children who follow Jesus; “little ones” signifies all believers growing up in Christ-like maturity. “We can commit no greater evil against another believer than causing them to sin. After all, we impede their growth into Christlikeness and negatively affect their heavenly reward when we lead other Christians astray. So, it follows that treating other Christians properly entails doing what we can to avoid causing them to stumble. The end that awaits those who cause others to sin is horrible indeed.” (Ligonier Ministries, Tabletalk Magazine)

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 11 May 20: Be patient with those who are less spiritually mature than you, and seek to lead them (through example and through gentle counsel) to greater love, closer to Jesus. Be a leader in love who embodies fear of the Lord, humility, love, and faithfulness. When offended, take up your cross and fellowship with Jesus in that moment. Return nothing but good for evil. Speak the truth, but speak the truth in love, without defending yourself in any way. (1 Corinthians 8:13)

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