Are there times when it's wrong to be right?
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1 Corinthians 8 (ESV)
1 Now concerning food offered to idols:
we know that “all of us possess knowledge.”
This “knowledge” puffs up,
but love builds up.
2 If anyone imagines that he knows something,
he does not yet know as he ought to know.
3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.
4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols,
we know that
“an idol has no real existence,”
and that “there is no God but one.”
5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—
as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”—
6 yet for us there is one God,
from whom are all things
and for whom we exist,
and one Lord,
through whom are all things
and through whom we exist.
7 However, not all possess this knowledge.
through former association with idols,
eat food as really offered to an idol,
and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.
8 Food will not commend us to God.
We are no worse off if we do not eat,
and no better off if we do.
9 But take care that this right of yours
does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.
10 For if anyone sees
you who have knowledge
eating in an idol’s temple,
will he not be encouraged,
if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols?
11 And so by your knowledge
this weak person is destroyed,
the brother for whom Christ died.
12 Thus, sinning against your brothers
and wounding their conscience when it is weak,
you sin against Christ.
13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble,
I will never eat meat,
lest I make my brother stumble.
1 Corinthians 8 Summary
In this chapter, Paul is continuing to respond to specific questions the Corinthians had asked him about.
The underlying issue dealt with in chapter 8 and the following chapters of eating meat sacrificed to idols is hard for us to understand, so it might help to re-read the synopsis we posted on this chapter in 2020 so you can see how although this issue isn't really an issue today, the principles being addressed remain very relevant.
We read about the importance of knowing theology well in chapter 6. For those in the Corinthian church who knew what they believed and why they believed it, Paul gives them permission to enjoy whatever food they like, even if it had been offered to pagan mythological gods (in Paul's day and age, the pagan temples were about the only source people could purchase meat from).
Unfortunately there will always be a component of the church that doesn't know its theology well, and that are easily offended by the actions of fellow Christians that seem sinful, even if they're not.
In these cases, the Bible's advice is consistent: the strong must abstain from otherwise acceptable activities for the sake of the weak.
It's important to keep a couple of things in mind as you apply this truth to your life. First, this advice applies only to cultural practices which aren't specifically prohibited by scripture. This passage is not a blank check for all of us to determine what's right or wrong in our own eyes.
Second, although you must be sensitive to the ignorant in the choices you make, you must not leave them in their ignorance. Rather, use the knowledge you've been given to help build them up in love (v1).
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father is the one from whom all things came and for whom we live, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live (v6)
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Be careful that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak (v9)
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: