Someone has said: “There are some people who are able to see
more than just the surface; they're able to feel what is not
making the headlines. The real need in Christian
circles today is sensitivity to the needs of others”
(Swindoll). Let's image that you are a part of the
church at Corinth, and you get an invitation from a friend
which reads like this: "Antonius, son of Gaius, invites you
to dine with him at the table of Lord Serapis in the
Serapeion tomorrow." Would you accept? Now
Serapis is a pagan god, and that's why he's called “Lord
Serapis” in the invitation. The Serapeion is the
temple to Serapis, and in it are several dining rooms where
banquets, wedding feasts, and funeral meals were often
served. This invitation meant that you'd get to have a
little meat in your diet, which was a rarity in ancient
days. That meat also would have been the leftovers
from an animal sacrifice offered on an altar to the god
Serapis. Now, knowing this information, would you have
accepted Antonius' inviation? It appears that there
may have been three responses that our brothers in Corinth
practiced. Some said, “Yes, go, an idol has no
existence, the meat will be good food, and it's good to
socialize.” Some other members said: “No, a pagan
temple is a wicked setting, the meat is defiled, and it's
good to shun all appearance of evil.” Some other
members probably thought: “I can sort of see both sides, I'm
confused, why don't we ask the apostle Paul for his advice.”
1 Corinthians 8:1 begins: “Now concerning the things offered
to idols ...” Here was a topic where the apostle Paul
knew that some brotherly sensitivity would be required.
Our theme today is: “Be sensitive to other members!”
How could the brothers at Corinth have such a problem eating
meats that had been offered to idols? Here's an
insightful comment: “The world was full of demons, and they
could enter people through what they ate [so the pagan
thought]. So a god was invoked to protect those
eating” (Barclay). Now let's look at four ways that
Paul encourages us to be more sensitive to other members.
First of all, don't act arrogantly. Let's read verse
1-3: “Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that
we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love
edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything,
he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. But if
anyone loves God, this one is known by Him.” “We know
we all have knowledge” is probably a phrase being used by
those brethren in Corinth who have no problems accepting
invitations. In some versions, these words are in
quotation marks. Paul doesn't refute this idea, but he
does point out a danger. When we are knowledgeable
about something for some time, we often become puffed up and
arrogant, especially toward other members who may not have
our knowledge. Paul sets the record straight by saying
that love edifies, nobody knows everything in this life, and
one's relationship with God is crucially important.
Don't act arrogantly!
Can we live out that message in our lives? Have we
been Christians so long that sometimes we forget the
struggles we may have gone through in order to understand
some things? Someone made this good statement: “While
knowledge may make a man look big, it is only love that can
make him grow to his full stature” (Phillips). Someone
else added this insight: “... human wisdom, when unaware of
its origins or limitations, could easily become unrestrained
arrogance; this could, in turn, breed an insensitivity to
those 'not in the know'” (Holladay). Paul writes later
in this letter that even if we have the spiritual gift of
knowledge, but don't manifest love in using it, it profits
us nothing (1 Cor. 13:2). Don't act arrogantly!
Here's a poem that might help us:
“Sometime when you're feeling important,
Sometime when you're ego feels whole,
Just follow these simple instructions,
And see how it humbles your soul:
Take a bucket and fill it with water,
Put your hand in it up to your wrist.
Then pull it out fast; and the hole that remains
Is the size of how you'll be missed!
Splash all you please as you enter
And stir the water galore,
But stop, and you'll see in a minute,
The water settles back as before!” (Dennison Jr. in
Someone else has remarked: “As the chest swells, the brain
and the heart shrink” (McKenzie). Don't act
arrogantly! Be sensitive to other members!
Then Paul advises us: Don't forget another's struggle!
Let's read verses 4-8: “Therefore concerning the eating of
things offered to idols, we know an idol is nothing in the
world, and that there is no other God but one. For
even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on
earth (as there are many gods and lords), yet for us there
is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for
Him; one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and
through whom we live. However, there is not in
everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the
idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol, and
their conscience, being weak, is defiled. But food
does not commend us to God; for neither if we are we the
better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse.” We see
that the specific knowledge which puffs up is the Christian
belief in one God. This is the God that created all
things through the agency of His Son, the one true Lord,
Jesus Christ. But not all members at Corinth still
understand this great knowledge, and they sin when they eat
meat offered to idols because they still see this as
honoring a god. Let's note how some commentators view
it: 1) “... many of those Christians at Corinth who
received this letter had been Christians less than 4 years.
It isn't surprising [that some would] continue to have pagan
baggage with them” (Oster); 2) “... there are in Corinth men
who have eaten sacrificed food all their lives and have
always thought of it as sacrificed to an idol having real
existence, and thus bearing real spiritual significance and
force. ... they have not ceased to believe in the reality of
the spiritual beings ... and have not ceased to think of the
food itself as having religious meaning” (Barrett).
Paul reminds those who can eat meats without any qualms:”
Don't forget another's struggle!” Just because you can
do this with comfort doesn't mean everybody can. In
fact, what you do in freedom, others do in sin because they
have weak consciences!
Can you get out of yourself long enough to consider another
member's struggle? Can you try to take his background,
her maturity, and their perspective into consideration?
Note an important principle here: 1) “Paul lays down the
principle, that, however safe the enlightened Christian may
feel from the infection of heathen idols ..., he must do
nothing which will hurt or confuse a brother whose
conscience is not so enlightened nor so strong as his”
(Barclay); 2) “These brethren had the liberty to eat
whatever they wanted, although some did not accept that
idea” (Roper). We see clearly here that some members
might have problems accepting an important truth for various
reasons. Don't forget another's struggle! It's
like Paul also says in Rom. 15:2: “Let each of us please his
neighbor for his good, leading to edification.” Be
sensitive to other members!
Next, Paul advises us: Don't cause another to lose their
faith! Let's look at verses 9-11: “But beware lest
somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to
those who are weak. For if anyone sees you who have
knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will not the
conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those
things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge
shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?”
One commentator describes what was going on in this way: “It
appears that Paul has no problem with a mature Christian
accepting an invitation to go to a meal in a banquet hall at
a pagan temple. The problem arises however, when a
weak Christian, who has not fully embraced monotheism, sees
these actions of a confident Christian and attempts to copy
them. The weak Christian will be emboldened to eat
what has been sacrificed to idols, and thereby, because of
his weakness in conscience, will in fact participate in an
idolatrous activity” (Oster). One brother's action is
legitimate in and of itself can become wrong if it
stimulates another brother or sister to sin against God.
Don't cause another to lose their faith!
Now notice this interesting comment: “Because of the
frequent abuse of the idea of stumbling block to the weak,
it should be pointed out that stumbling block does not refer
to any practice or belief that happens to offend another
believer.” It is an action which destroys one's relationship
with God and makes one fall into sin (Oster). This
commentator mentions the abuse of the stumbling block.
Have you ever been in a congregation where there is
conflict—do we pave our parking lot, for example? The
discussion gets heated and someone who really doesn't want
the parking lot paved says: “By paving the parking lot, you
are creating a stumbling block for me.” You ask how,
and they say something like: “Well, the first Christians
didn't need one, and we don't need one either.” Now,
will paving a parking lot threaten that persons salvation?
No, not really. This is not a salvation issue, but it
is basically a personal preference. The brother who is
against the paving wants to make all those who prefer it
feel guilty and give in to his wishes. Another
commentator reminds us: “An indulgence which ruins another
member is not a pleasure but a sin (Barclay).” There
is a faith issue involved in this example of meats offered
to idols; it is not from the food itself, but it involves
another's conscience and their relationship with God.
Don't cause another to lose their faith! Be sensitive
to other members!
Lastly, Paul advises us: Don't sin against Christ!
Let's read verses 12-13: “But when you thus sin against the
brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against
Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I
will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”
Verse 12 has a sobering statement. Verse 13 shows the
action of Paul that those at Corinth should follow.
Let's look at some very important implications about sinning
against Christ: “To sin against your brother means nothing
less than to sin against Christ (a lesson brought home to
Paul long since on the Damascus road, Acts 9:4). They
are 'in Christ,' and anything done against them is therefore
done against Him (Mt. 25:42-45). There is a high
dignity in being a Christian. It is easy to look down
on some church members as unimportant. But they are
not so. No temple of the Holy Spirit is unimportant.
God lives in the weak. We must honor them as members
of Christ, and beware of sinning against the Lord.
“Wound” ... is use[d] for striking vigorous blows, for
beating. The strong 'hit' the weak conscience, and
thus do great harm (Morris).”
Will we realize the gravity of our actions and will we
modify our behavior to help another? Maybe the words
of recent hymn will remind us not to wound each other: “See
all the wounded, hear all their desperate cries for help,
grieving for shelter and for peace. Our comrades are
suffering, come let us meet them at their need. Don't
let a wounded soldier die. Come let us pour the oil.
Come let us bind the hurt. Let's cover them with the
blanket of His love. Let's minister healing to them.
Don't let another wounded soldier die.” Don't sin
against Christ! Be sensitive to other members!
A thoughtless pilot got into an ill-equipped single engine
plane and took off. The plane had no lights, but he
was flying toward a little county airstrip where he would
land, he thought before sunset. Unfortunately, there
were strong winds which blew against him, and he approached
in darkness with a haze over the landing strip. As he
neared, he came down lower but could not make out the
runway's boundaries, and there were no lights. Panic
seized him, and he sensed he didn't have much fuel left.
He had no way of getting touch with anyone. He began
to circle, and soon realized that one of rounds would soon
be his last, and he would crash to his death. Down on
the ground, a man was sitting on his porch and his sensitive
ears kept hearing the drone of the plane's engines as it was
going round and round. He suddenly realized: “That
guy's in trouble!” So he quickly jumped into his car
and headed to the airstrip. Then he began driving up
and down the runway with his lights on bright, showing the
young pilot where to land. The pilot finally caught on
and, with a sigh of relief, began to land the plane. The
driver went to the runway's end and turned on his flashers.
The pilot came right in and landed safely. A near
tragedy was averted by one man sensitivity to another man's
need. Can we as Christians be as sensitive to the
spiritual needs of each other and avert the potential danger
of having one in our number lose their faith and return to
living ungodly lives? Be sensitive to other members!
Let's pray: “Father, we thank You for Paul's inspired
wisdom. Help us to be sensitive to other members.
Help us to put Paul's advice into practice. In Jesus'
name, we pray, Amen.”
“Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you
are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with
your food the one for whom Christ died” (Romans 14:15-16)!
Have you been insensitive to other members? Have you
acted arrogantly and forgotten another's struggle?
Have you done something that might have caused another to
lose faith? Have you sinned against Christ by causing
a weak member to be destroyed? Do you realize that
right now you have an opportunity to confess these wrongs
and seek forgiveness? Jesus stands at the end of your
runway wanting to guide you to safety. As was noted
earlier: “The real need in Christian circles today is
sensitivity to the needs of others.” For those not
members, do you realize that is another opportunity to
become one by abandoning sin and putting on Christ in
baptism? Don't delay any longer! Come ...