Sunday, September 15
Now concerning food sacriﬁced to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” Knowledge puﬀs up, but love builds up. Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by him. Hence, as to the eating of food oﬀered to idols, we know that “no idol in the world really exists,” and that “there is no God but one.” Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food oﬀered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is deﬁled. “Food will not bring us close to God.” We are no worse oﬀ if we do not eat, and no better oﬀ if we do. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacriﬁced to idols? So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed. But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall. (1 Corinthians 8:1-13)
So, community looks like a place of constancy, meaning that we are committed to seeking God’s desire for our congregation’s next steps.
We cannot make that statement lightly. Our mission is too important to ignore God’s leading. While it may not be easy to ﬁnd the balance between Christian tradition and being led forward by the Spirit into new revelation, we rejoice that God is with us — even when we are not sure which path to take. We choose Christian unity as our foundation and Christian constancy as our standard.
When we experience diﬀerences of opinion on possible changes, we will draw on the example and lessons of the Corinthian Church as they struggled with meat sacriﬁced to idols. “Knowledge puﬀs up, but love builds up,” says Paul. What we think we know is not as important as how we treat people. This same teaching is found in many other places in the New Testament. “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor 13:13) What an amazing statement: love is more important than even faith in God!
Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be gloriﬁed in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 4:8-11)
This theological idea led Paul to proclaim that while “so-called gods in heaven or on earth” do not exist, and therefore “no idol in the world really exists,” our decision about whether or not to eat meat is driven by our love for one another, not by what we believe. Think about what he is saying: he is willing to adjust his lifestyle to welcome new Christians who still believe in multiple gods!
People are more important than ideas. We may disagree on what the Holy Spirit is saying to us about the next steps of our church, but we will align ourselves with rules that support people and embody love.
We must choose to be a congregation that talks, prays, and collaborates about potential change, not only so we can accept uncomfortable things, but so we can continue to love people and invite them to join us, imperfect as we are, in following Jesus.
After this week, can you deﬁne Christian constancy?
Does our congregation act like love is more important than faith?
Do you agree with the statements, “people are more important than ideas” and “we will align ourselves with rules that support people?” Why or why not? What about this is particularly encouraging or challenging for you?