23 February 2015

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

“But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” (v. 9)

Psalm: Psalm 115


Paul is speaking into a context where the meat from animals that had been sacrificed was often sold in local markets. Whether it was then acceptable for Christians to eat the meat of animals used as sacrifices in idol worship was a matter of dispute. Some Christians knew that because idols do not actually exist then there were no implications of eating the meat of such animals. Nor would it indicate any concession to faith in idol worship. However, Paul points out that knowledgeable Christians may therefore come to feel superior to those who did worry about such matters.

A passage that reflects on food offered to idols may not be easy to immediately engage with today, but the principle underlying the specific example that Paul uses is still relevant. He contrasts knowledge and love. Knowledge can bring freedom, but it can also lead to superiority. True knowledge is about love. The knowledge that God loves all of us is the beginning and the end.

In this case knowledge brings with it the freedom to eat the meat, but Paul urges consideration for the faith of others as a guideline in the exercise of this freedom. Those he is addressing can also choose not to eat the meat, not because it will spiritually harm them, but out of consideration for the faith of others. Paul advocates choices that are for the good of the whole community. We may have the freedom to make many choices, but the passage encourages us to reflect on whether these choices are grounded in knowledge or love. Faithful witness demonstrates a concern for the faith journeys of others.

To Ponder

  • What choices do you have to make that might impact on the faith of others?
  • What principles do you consider when making your decisions?
  • What kind of power do you have, and how do you try to exercise it?

Bible notes author

The Revd Nicola Price-Tebbutt

Nicola Price-Tebbutt is a presbyter in the Methodist Church. She has previously served in circuit in Sheffield and as a tutor at Hartley Victoria College in Manchester.