1 Corinthians 8:8-9
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. (ESV)
1 Corinthians 8:11
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. (ESV)
“Am I my brother’s keeper?”, this was Cain’s response to God in Genesis 4:9 upon God’s inquiry to him about his brother Abel’s whereabouts. We have the luxury of already knowing that Cain had killed Abel so we can see in his response to God that he is doing his best to deflect the blame of his actions by claiming ignorance. I wonder how often we do that in our relationships of influence with other Christians.
In today’s verses the Apostle Paul is teaching us that it is our responsibility to be aware of the maturity level and even the pre-conceived notions about certain things of the Christians we are in community with. Paul uses a common issue from his time to illustrate the point. In Corinth, where the church was that Paul was writing there were many temples to a variety of man-made gods. People would flock to these temples to worship in a variety of ways. One of the ways was eating. People would go to the temple of their god and have a meal dedicated to it. Paul teaching is that we know that food is not the substance we use to connect to the true God. It is only through faith by grace that we connect with God, so whether we eat pizza or steak it doesn’t matter. And where we eat really doesn’t matter either as far as our relationship with God is concerned. We have a great deal of liberty when it comes to most of the things we do as long as we are not sinning with our actions. What Paul is teaching us is that while it doesn’t matter to God what or where we eat or even do, it may matter to the other Christians we associate with. As an example, Paul relates that a Christian who is mature and understands the liberty that he has in Jesus to eat whatever he wants may cause a Christian who is less mature to stumble. In this case, the one who is mature by eating a meal at temple, in full knowledge that all he is doing is eating, may convey the message to the less mature that it is ok to engage in idol worship causing the less mature to sin. Paul’s exhortation is to make sure that in our liberty we do not cause others to stumble.
So what’s the application? For me these verses speak to 2 keys ideals, 1)the need for discipleship and the maturing of faith, and 2)the responsibility of the Christian to understand his sphere of influence.
It is important that the community of believers work to disciple and mature one another. I believe that this comes in community as those who are mature in the faith are set in roles where they can speak into the lives of new and maturing Christians. It is vital that these communities are based on sound biblical teaching because the Bible is the tool that God has given us. Paul helps us this with ideal reminding us in his letter to his leader Timothy that, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (1 Tim 3:16-17, ESV).
In addition to discipleship we have to be mindful of the other Christians we influence. We have to be careful to understand where in the walk with Christ they are. Sometimes we have to exercise restraint in our own freedom to make sure that we don’t cause others to stumble. This is very challenging in out present time because of the ease at which we can be known by others. This blog for example may be read by people who I would have no ideal where they are at in Christian maturity. How do I make my words don’t cause someone to stumble?
For a final thought, let me say that these verses challenge us to be aware of what we are doing an who we are affecting. Reading Paul’s letters we find that this is one characteristic that marked his journey. My hope is that by the leading of the Spirit and God’s grace I may consisting point those I influence to Jesus and not cause any to stumble.
Heavenly Father, thank you Lord that you choose to save us without us being fixed up first. Thank you for the work of the Holy Spirit who leads us and guides us into maturity. Forgive us where we have caused others to stumble and grant us wisdom to understand who we influence and when in liberty to restrain our freedom for the sake of others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.