Corinth being a melting pot of cultural diversity, made it hard for the new believers to separate themselves from the pagan traditions that surrounded them. One such issue that Paul tries to address is eating of meat that was sacrificed to the pagan gods.
Since only part of the animal was used for sacrificial purposes, the remaining portion was sold and consumed by the people. Either this meat was sold for cheap which tempted meat lovers or maybe there was no easy way of buying kosher meat in Corinth during those days. This was brought before Paul, perhaps so that he could rebuke the offenders.
We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.1 Corinthians 8:1
The more we have confidence on ourselves, on our knowledge and our skills, the less we are open to trust God’s will for our lives. It does not mean that we should live a life where we are doubting every step we take but our confidence should be rooted in Christ rather than on our learnings.
The Corinthians started making up their own laws as they were confident that they can do nothing wrong as they now had ‘Freedom in Christ’ and having such thoughts leads to the downfall of even the greatest men of God.
We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.”1 Corinthians 8:4
While we know that no idol has any power and neither does the food that is offered to it, and that it is what comes out of our bodies (our words and actions) that defile us and not the food that goes in (Matthew 15:11), not everyone has this enlightenment. God works in people’s lives in different ways. For the new believer who is struggling to leave the pagan ways, is it wise to showcase our immunity before him?
Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.1 Corinthians 8:9
Does anyone drink before alcoholics, reminding them of what they are missing out on? People who have the self-control and are not succumbed by the addiction of alcohol, do not parade this trait rather show empathy and restrict their consumption, so that they do not end up being the reason why their friend jumped off the wagon.
If we are so conscience to not let people stumble from an addiction that destroys the body, why are we so callous when dealing with someone’s soul. Because of our actions, we either cause the downfall of the new believer or we are the reason for them leaving their faith and his soul will be on our conscience.
When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.1 Corinthians 8:12
Do not become a stumbling block to new believers. If you need to change your habits (dietary or others) to make them feel comfortable, do it, anything that brings them closer to God without letting our own relationship with God suffer.
A Clear Conscience
You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons.1 Corinthians 10:21
We cannot have it both ways, we either need to separate ourselves from all pagan traditions and rituals or stop practising our own rituals. We cannot call someone else’s traditions hollow, when we have been treating communion with God as a ritual. We must try to understand the purpose for why Christ instituted communion rather than thinking of it as just another ritual. The Greeks believed that eating food offered to their gods was them having communion with them. Likewise, if we eat with the pagans without understanding the meaning of their rituals, then we are acknowledging the same.
The laziness of people who refer to Daniel’s friends as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is another example of us not wanting to understand what we do. These names praise the pagan gods of Babylon and we have no problem in uttering them. But their original names that gave glory to Yahweh we do not even know. Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah are beautiful names which give praise to the Creator of the heavens and the earth. If someone uses their Babylonian names without knowing the meaning, then their conscience is clear. But once we know the meaning and how we have been missing out on the opportunity to praise God had we used their Hebrew names, still if we continue to use the pagan names, we are sinning against Christ.
You cannot ask to be seated at the Lord’s table but also continue to eat at the table of daemons. You cannot say that I want to grow closer to God and then don’t want to get enlightened and leave our old ways. We have the freedom in Christ to do anything but that does not mean we will use our freedom to drive Christ away from our lives. We make it a point to limit God saying that He can’t be in a place where sin exists, but we continue to defile our bodies which is His Holy Temple.
No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.1 Corinthians 10:24
Have a clear conscience in whatever you do when we are interacting with our pagan surroundings and do not seek benefit for yourself but think about the others around you.
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble…1 Corinthians 10:31-32