16 May 20191 Corinthians 8:9-13
But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling-block to the weak. (v. 9)
Psalm: Psalm 129
I know that vegetarianism is a matter of conscience for many people. For a time it was for me. It was not something I wished to impose on others, but for me it felt right. Today, it is far more prominent on people’s agenda. What we eat and how it is produced has global significance.
In Paul’s day this was a question of faith. Could you eat food which had been ritually sacrificed, or not? For those who saw this as a mark of faithfulness it was critical. Paul has already said that issues of what we eat are not significant to our faith. It might be assumed that the issue was closed. But he could see that the freedom to do as we please can actually hurt others. So we ought to be careful. Not to be can be hurtful, even damaging.
All of this may seem to be of little relevance to 21st-century Christians. If we were Jews or Muslims it might be different. Strangely, for Methodists, the issue has been a significant part of our history; it became a label. And the label has not always been helpful. "Of course, you’re a Methodist, you don’t drink." I had a colleague once who wouldn’t go into a pub around Christmas time to sing carols. A stumbling block to mission, or a witness to faith? We have to judge. My friend would argue that if he were seen drinking he would be seen to condone it. But Jesus, reputedly, turned water into wine. On the other hand I know of people who suffer from alcoholism who daren’t taste alcohol or the addiction will start again, it is simply resting. It would be wrong to introduce people to alcohol at all.
Should we, therefore, distance ourselves from people who do drink, in moderation or excess. I’m tempted to suggest that Jesus wouldn’t. But then I do drink, from time to time, in moderation. And what of other addictions?
- How is it possible to celebrate your freedom of conscience as a Christian?
- In what ways do you feel restrained in your words or deeds as a Christian?