Act in a loving way
While knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church. Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much. 1 Corinthians 8:1-2
In writing this letter to the Corinthians, Paul didn’t dodge any of the difficult issues. I suspect that most of us are tempted to avoid grasping nettles, but Paul took on one nettle after another with remarkable confidence. The issue that he grappled with here is totally unfamiliar to us, but we have much to learn from the way in which he handled it.
Corinth was a big port and had a very mixed population. The people worshipped a wide variety of deities, and it was quite usual for food to have been taken to the temple gods to be blessed. This posed a major issue for the Christian community. Where should the line be drawn? There were two possible approaches. One was to say that idols aren’t real, so it really doesn’t matter whether the food has been offered to them or not. The other approach was adopted by those who came from a background in which they had been taught to believe that the idols had real power. Now that they had become Christians they found it deeply offensive to eat anything that had been offered to idols.
Paul’s answer is really interesting. He said that what matters most is love. So the person who isn’t bothered whether meat had been offered to idols or not, should not eat such food if it might cause another Christian to be offended. They might well be willing to eat food offered to idols as a result of their longer Christian experience and knowledge, but love must shape their actions.
It’s not difficult to see the way in which this teaching might shape our actions today. For example, many Christians are happy to drink alcohol but if, in drinking alcohol, you would cause difficulty and offence to someone else, then love would determine that you should refrain. Love needs to drive our actions because it is the only way in which the Church will be strengthened. As another translation of verse 1 puts it: “Knowledge puffs up while love builds up” (NIVUK).
In what situation might this teaching be relevant in your own life?
Father God, help me always to be sensitive towards my Christian brothers and sisters, and always to act in a loving way. Amen