Posted in Devotions

Would you do it for Him?

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

I ran across these interesting words in a letter the apostle Paul wrote to believers in the ancient city of Corinth: “If food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble” (1 Corinthians 8:13).

That’s very noble of you, Paul. But why is that such a big deal? Why should I have to adjust my behavior so that I don’t upset someone else? That’s their problem, not mine, right?

Food offered to idols?

I guess the first thing to wrap my mind around is the whole idea of “food offered to idols” in 1 Corinthians 8. I guess that was a thing back then, even in a pagan culture. While we mostly deal in currency for contributions, gifts of food could be brought to the temples. What are you going to do with all that food? Well, you could sell it in the market, which means you could also buy it in the market.

So Paul had to address the issue of whether or not it was OK to eat food wrapped up in pagan worship practices. On the one hand, it’s no big deal. There is only one true God and only one Savior, Jesus. Those other gods don’t even really exist. So it’s a moot point.

On the other hand, maybe you are someone who grew up in that pagan lifestyle and had become a believer in Christ. You had left behind your previous life to follow him and his teachings. And it really bothered you when others acted like it was no big deal.

I doubt if you’ll find any ritual food for sale at a grocery store. It seems like this inspired word of God doesn’t have much application for us.

Until your choices, actions or habits affect someone else.

Would you do it for them?

I’ve always been hypersensitive to serving or consuming alcohol when in the company of those in recovery from alcoholism. I know it’s their problem. They have to manage their addiction. I just don’t want to do anything to jeopardize how far they’ve come. I can drink a soda that night.

When we had a guest at our house who was extremely sensitive to gluten in food, we went out and bought a new rolling pin to use with gluten-free flour in food preparation. We didn’t have to do that. She could have eaten a salad. But hey, I can eat gluten-free for a day or two.

It is far too easy to bash other Christian denominations, pulverizing their beliefs with my own church’s doctrines. However, sensitive to the fact that many of my listeners have family and friends in those very denominations, I don’t have to do that. I can positively present what I believe and why without attacking the people you love.

Have you recently been asked or told to wear a face mask? Chances are you’re not happy about that. I’m not. It’s certainly not convenient. We don’t like it when someone tells us to do something we don’t think is wise or helpful. And we may be absolutely right. Maybe it is ridiculous, totally ineffective and a violation of our rights.

But would you do it for someone else? Would you do it for someone who was scared? Would you do it for someone who was grieving a lost loved one? Would you do it just to give someone peace of mind?

Would you do it for him?

Jesus said that if you want to come after him, you deny yourself, take up your cross and follow. Sometimes that means you set aside your rights, your preferences, your convenience and your passion for the sake of someone else. Sometimes you do it for Jesus. And whatever – even wearing a face mask – we do for the least of his brothers or sisters, we do it for him.

Posted in Moments of grace

We went back to church today.

It felt familiar. It felt strange. It felt like home. It felt uncomfortable. It felt warm. It felt cold. It was a morning filled with contrasting sensations.

After seven weeks of “sheltering-in-place” virtual worship, we opened the doors of our church last Sunday morning. For an hour, the distance between members of the congregation shrank from miles to six feet. A thoughtful set of precautions reminded us of the pandemic. Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs reminded us of God’s powerful healing grace.

My mind vividly recalls these sounds and images of our first week back together:

  • For many, getting ready for church includes putting on a mask. Wearing gloves to church? The resurrection of an old tradition! Ushers and elders wore them for certain tasks. I wore them to distribute communion.
  • We did not pass the offering plates. Tithes and offerings were left at the door. Many were given electronically. Some were given by text.
  • We removed all the hymnals, bibles and visitor cards from the pews. Their absence made the church look even emptier. Until the worshipers began to gather…
  • …but the back rows were not filled! We sat on the aisles in every other pew, so many got to experience Sunday morning more “up close and personal” than ever before.
  • The little ones did not race to the chancel for a children’s sermon. I brought it back to them, to the place where they sat with their families.
  • The communion rail remained vacant. One person at a time came forward to stand at the altar and receive the sacrament.
  • My iPhone was perched on a tripod off to the side, live-streaming the service to many who were not yet ready to join us in person. Who knows how many actually worshiped with us on this day?
  • The sanctuary was filled with sound! It wasn’t just me speaking and singing and praying in an empty room. It was dozens of voices together, thanking and praising and praying. It was wonderful.
  • We had first time visitors in worship. The Spirit still gathers His people together.
  • Vigilant volunteers wiped down pews, door handles and chancel surfaces after everyone else left. (The filthy rags revealed we should have been doing this a long time ago.)

I can’t help but wonder if this is the new normal. Will we ever revert completely to how we gathered before? Will handshakes and hugs, kisses and high fives ever return to our assembly? Will we ever feel comfortable sharing books again? Or will we now always be hyper-conscious of the unseen germs all around us?

It’s only been one week. We’re learning as we go. I doubt we will soon forget how something so small can keep us apart. I just hope we never forget that someone so small – “to us a child is born” – can bring us together, too.