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.