But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble. For if others see you—with your “superior knowledge”—eating in the temple of an idol, won’t they be encouraged to violate their conscience by eating food that has been offered to an idol? So because of your superior knowledge, a weak believer for whom Christ died will be destroyed. And when you sin against other believers by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong, you are sinning against Christ. So if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live—for I don’t want to cause another believer to stumble.1 Corinthians 8:9-13
Wow, notice what has just happened here. This is huge. Paul has been trained under the restrictions of Judaisim. He has discussed the issue of knowledge. The degree to which we get so caught up in our way of thinking that we are blind to others and only see our point of view. Although he hasn’t stated it in as many words that is all bound up in the thought of the first three verses. We have seen how restrictive the statements of the Rabbinical School are toward food offered to idols in particular. Paul has the strength of mind and character to rise above all that and break free. Idols are nothing; there is only One God and you derive life from Him. Eat, don’t eat, up to you.
Now in the very next breath Paul goes back to not eating. In fact he says. Not only will I not eat, I will never eat meat again. See how extreme that comment is in the context of all he has said before. What would cause Paul to make such a reversal in his stand? The body! Fellow believers. The good of the whole not the part. Paul is serious when he talks about preserving body unity. He has come into freedom in Christ to point where he can turn his back on all his Pharisaic training and stand in his freedom. That in itself is huge. But even more so is his willingness to yield his right to be free for the sake of a fellow believer. Not just yield it once but forever. I will never eat meat again as long as live if it means not causing a believer to stumble. Now that is radical to the Nth degree.
Caste your mind back a couple of days to the opening verses of this chapter. Knowledge that puffs up: people who hold strong opinions and like to voice them and even better like others to hear what they have to say. Those sort of people don’t do what Paul has just done. Paul feels things strongly too. Paul holds to very strong points of view. Paul is very hot against the issue of Judaizing. But he is willing to yield all ground for the sake of unity and the weak brother. Take a moment to stop and think about those you know who are opinionated. How many of them would yield ground Paul has done? Let’s bring it even closer to home. Would you be willing to yield your rights for the sake of the body? That is how deep Paul’s passion for the body and for supporting the weak member runs. You have to admit it is impressive.
I will leave you to dig into the depths of other things said in these few verses. There are more elements worthy of our attention. Paul’s continued focus on “knowledge”. It is what holds this chapter together, that and the question from the Corinthians. Note also the contrast between superior knowledge and weaker conscience // superior knowledge and weaker believers. There are numbers of things that can be said. But the strength of it all is the focus on the degree to which we are willing to go for the weaker brother for the sake of the unity of the body. I think if we analyse our issues that we get so opinionated about, they pall into insignificance in the light of what Paul has just done. Bear in mind this is no light matter for Paul or his fellow Pharisees. This is meat and drink for them if you will forgive the pun. Yet his stand shows the passion he has for the unity of the body of Christ. The things he said in his opening burst in the Corinthian letter about the factions and unity are not just words. As far as Paul is concerned it is part of the living and moving and having our being and our identity in Him. This is what being ἐν Χριστῷ [in Christ] is all about.
Go suck on that sweetie for while, it’s deep and radical.Ian Vail
Heavenly Father, make me a billboard of your grace, a living advertisement for the riches of your compassion.Max Lucado
Cooperation is more than a good idea; it is a command. “Make every effort to keep unity of the Spirit” (Eph 4:3).Max Lucado