We will spend more time on this in a future message. The real issue at Corinth wasn’t eating idol meat; it was attitude. The strong were flaunting their freedom to the weak. This was creating a potential “stumbling block” to the weak. The word literally means, “to put an obstacle before someone.” Stumbling block doesn’t mean upsetting. The professional weaker brother is offended at everything. This has in view the susceptible weaker brother who sees the stronger brother eating meat offered to an idol, and is emboldened to do it too, even though his conscience can’t handle it and tells him he is doing something wrong.
Love your brother enough to limit your freedom, if necessary, for his sake – 8:13
Let me illustrate this. It’s not a perfect analogy, so don’t get tripped up on the details. Let’s just say that right now someone bursts into the room and says, A big truck from Horseshoe Casino just pulled up. It’s a long story but they have 1,000 catered prime rib meals from their restaurant at the Casino and they were wondering if we would like them.
Imagine the conversation we could have deciding what to do. No doubt we would quickly have two groups. Some would say, “Where’s the fork and knife? Let’s dig in!” Those would be the participating mature brothers (or possibly the gluttons of the church). Another group would be identifiable, “Absolutely not!” They might come to this conclusion for different reasons. Some grew up in churches that taught clearly that when a casino shows up at a church with catered prime rib, godly churches will always say no! Another reason could be personal background. This person says, “Everyone, before I was a Christian, my life spiraled out of control and a big part of that was my participation at the casinos. I was controlled by the greed and materialism. When Christ saved me, He saved me from that and I’ll tell you right now, I don’t want anything to do with it. I don’t feel right about it.”
Now things get quiet and we realize there are deeper issues than a free meal and a good steak. In that moment, is the real issue the prime rib? The real issue is love. Do you see how contrary to the gospel of a self-sacrificing Savior it would be for a strong conscience brother to say, “I don’t care about your past; I’m going back there and getting me some good casino prime rib”?
The weaker brother can’t, in that moment, change his conscience, but the stronger brother can, in his love, change his lifestyle and be mature enough to see that there are more important things than meat. Like Love. Unity. And the church’s testimony to the community.
God’s vertical love for us must translate into horizontal love for our brother, even one whose conscience is unbiblically tender.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
© 2009 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s web site address (http://www.bethelweb.org/) on the copied resource.