Friday, March 4, 2011

Don’t give offense to Jews or Gentiles or the church of God.

1Cor. 10:19-32NLT  
   19 What am I trying to say? Am I saying that food offered to idols has some significance, or that idols are real gods? 20 No, not at all. I am saying that these sacrifices are offered to demons, not to God. And I don’t want you to participate with demons. 21 You cannot drink from the cup of the Lord and from the cup of demons, too. You cannot eat at the Lord’s Table and at the table of demons, too. 22 What? Do we dare to rouse the Lord’s jealousy? Do you think we are stronger than he is? 
   23 You say, “I am allowed to do anything” —but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything” —but not everything is beneficial. 24 Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others. 
   25 So you may eat any meat that is sold in the marketplace without raising questions of conscience. 26 For “the earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it.” 
   27 If someone who isn’t a believer asks you home for dinner, accept the invitation if you want to. Eat whatever is offered to you without raising questions of conscience. 28 (But suppose someone tells you, “This meat was offered to an idol.” Don’t eat it, out of consideration for the conscience of the one who told you. 29 It might not be a matter of conscience for you, but it is for the other person.) For why should my freedom be limited by what someone else thinks? 30 If I can thank God for the food and enjoy it, why should I be condemned for eating it? 31 So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Don’t give offense to Jews or Gentiles or the church of God.

In the first century it was all about false idols and sacrifices. Today false gods are worshipped in other ways-- avarice, alcohol, drugs, sex, power etc. Just like Paul encouraged first century Christians not to knowingly consume food that was given in worship of a false god, so we should avoid embracing fruits of false worship as well. We should avoid materials that are produced by slave labor perhaps. We should not be the cause of another consuming alcohol and becoming injured by it. We should not drive dangerously just because we are in a hurry and risk another person's live. There are lots of false god-fruits that we should avoid. But there is a greater way to think of all this.

We are, indeed free because Christ has set us free. This freedom includes freedom from condemnation. It includes freedom from the power of self-serving sin over our decisions. We can enjoy what God gives us. But if we exercise our freedom in careless ways that put others at risk, then we are not showing the fruit of the Holy Spirit-- unconditional love.

I don't need to make an idol of the details of my religious worship either. I don't need to do investigations to show that I am being careful. I once knew a Rabbi who subscribed to the most rigid sect of Judaism. On a Sabbath day he would never walk more than seven steps without changing directions. We were in the military and in a war zone. That caused us both problems. It especially took extra time for us to go anywhere together on that particular day. I asked him why and he related that he had to be seen for keeping the smallest details of his holy day rules. Yet he missed the entire purpose of his relationship with a living God and was content to talk about his adherence to religious details.

Our Lord taught that to keep the Law of God is to love, serve and live to be a blessing to others at God's direction. Paul taught that to be a blessing to others one had to follow the Lord. Our Lord Jesus said that to be His followers, we must deny self, embrace our destiny in His will and go where ever He would lead us. Lots of us in the Church of Jesus Christ have done this across the two millenia since He commissioned us. Yet lots more of us are not doing this.

What about you today?
Your servant in obedience to Christ

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