Food Offered to Idols
1In your letter you asked me about food offered to idols. All of us know something about this subject. But knowledge makes us proud of ourselves, while love makes us helpful to others. 2In fact, people who think they know so much don't know anything at all. 3But God has no doubts about who loves him.
4Even though food is offered to idols, we know that none of the idols in this world are alive. After all, there is only one God. 5Many things in heaven and on earth are called gods and lords, but none of them really are gods or lords. 6We have only one God, and he is the Father. He created everything, and we live for him. Jesus Christ is our only Lord. Everything was made by him, and by him life was given to us.
7Not everyone knows these things. In fact, many people have grown up with the belief that idols have life in them. So when they eat meat offered to idols, they are bothered by a weak conscience. 8But food doesn't bring us any closer to God. We are no worse off if we don't eat, and we are no better off if we do.
9Don't cause problems for someone with a weak conscience, just because you have the right to eat anything. 10You know all this, and so it doesn't bother you to eat in the temple of an idol. But suppose a person with a weak conscience sees you and decides to eat food that has been offered to idols. 11Then what you know has destroyed someone Christ died for. 12When you sin by hurting a follower with a weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13So if I hurt one of the Lord's followers by what I eat, I will never eat meat as long as I live.
Very conservative Christians are notorious for their harsh judgment of those whose spiritual or moral (or, alas, political) convictions differ from their own. Perhaps their only rivals for prideful exclusivity are those very liberal Christians whose tolerance extends to everyone – except those whose convictions are rigorous and clearly defined. Paul points out that what matters is not the “rightness” of what we think we know, but the inexpressibly lovely truth that God knows us. We are able to revel in the beauty of being known by God, not by knowing the right things about him, but by loving him.
There is such tremendous freedom in this. Of course we want to know that which is true about God, ourselves and our world; yet not having to be sure that we are right about everything (or, really, anything much) means the freedom to live in God – an amazing thought! – rather than living according to what we imagine his rules are.
Such a freedom is powerful; it can also be dangerous to those who are still locked into a rules-oriented faith. Wherever we situate ourselves on the doctrinal continuum, we need to be considerate and seek the good of our brothers and sisters whose convictions differ from our own – even if doing so requires us to sacrifice some of our own freedom. That’s love.
O Saviour, who sets me free; O Spirit, who calls me to holiness; O God, in whom I have my being – may I live in you in such a way that my freedom releases others, and your holiness growing in me draws others into deep, refining relationship with you. Save me from causing anyone to stumble. I ask for my own sake, and for the sake of all for whom Christ died. In his name. Amen.