If food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.
–1 Corinthians 8:13
I remember it like it was yesterday: I was a teenager. The Sunday evening service had just finished, and the mother of a girl in our youth group came up to me and said, “Robert, my daughter went to a movie last night, and she was horribly offended at the language in it.”
I remember thinking, “Why is she telling me this? Maybe it is because I am so spiritual, she thought I would want to know.” So I took the bait and asked, “Why did your daughter go to that movie in the first place?”
She said, “Well, a couple of nights ago, she was driving by the theater and saw you and your date standing in line to go see that movie. And she said to herself, ‘If Robert Jeffress can go to that movie, it must be okay.’”
I wanted to crawl under the nearest pew. That night, I was reminded of the truth that what we do affects other people. And that is the theme of 1 Corinthians 8, where Paul took up the controversial subject of eating meat that had been sacrificed to an idol.
The city of Corinth was noted for idol worship. William Barclay explained that when pagan worshipers would offer meat to their idols, one-third of the meat would be consumed by fire, one-third went home with the worshiper, and one-third was given to the priest. The priest could not eat all that meat, so there was a shop on the temple grounds where you could purchase it. This sparked a debate in the Corinthian church. The more mature Christians were saying, “We know those idols are not real, so what is wrong with eating that meat?” But some of the newer Christians in Corinth had just come out of idol worship. For them, to eat meat that had been offered to an idol would remind them of their former lifestyle and might cause them to lapse.
Had I been the apostle Paul, I would have addressed the younger Christians in the church. I would have said, “You all need to grow up and realize you have freedom in Christ.” But that is why God did not have me write 1 Corinthians. Instead of addressing the younger Christians, Paul told the more mature Christians how they should gauge their behavior in light of the less mature Christians. And he said, in essence, “Out of love, mature Christians should limit their freedom for the sake of immature Christians.” In other words, my freedom in Christ stops when it hurts another believer. That is the theme of our study this week.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Meat Market Christianity” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2011.
William Barclay, “The Letters to the Corinthians,” The New Daily Study Bible (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2002), 84-86.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.