Choosing to abstain

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

In this passage from 1 Corinthians 8, Paul is writing to believers in Corinth about food sacrificed to idols- and whether or not one should eat meat that has been part of a pagan ritual and later purchased in the marketplace. Paul states that, “an idol is nothing at all in the world,” because there is only “one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.” (1 Cor. 8:6) Eating meat that has been sacrificed to a pagan deity is not an issue because that god is a false god. Paul does, however, give believers caution- and that is in regards to those who are weaker and that the consumption of this meat would lead them to stumble in their faith. For the believers in Corinth, Paul encourages moderation and wisdom in their practices. He writes in verse 13, “Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.”

I suspect that most of us don’t worry about meat that has been sacrificed in worship of a pagan deity. But what about those other areas or practices in our lives that are not explicitly sinful? If a weaker/less mature Christian or a non-Christian listened to the music on our iPod, saw some of the movies or TV shows that we watch, saw us smoking or drinking alcohol, wearing revealing clothing, participating in games that could be understood as gambling, saw our premarital physical relationships- could those things, though not necessarily sinful, cause someone else to stumble in their faith? This is the issue at stake in 1 Corinthians.

What Paul advocates is not strict legalism, but a check of our motivations.

Out of love and respect for those who Paul would call weaker (less mature) Christians- do we check our motivations for the freedoms we enjoy- and consider how they appear to others? What is my motivation for listening to a particular secular artist who may use foul or suggestive language? What is my motivation for the attire I choose to wear-To draw attention to myself or give God glory? Why do I feel the need to watch raunchy television shows- how would a new Christians perceive it?

Lent is a season of self-examination. During these 40 days, we fast from certain things and intentionally seek to spend time with God. Paul calls us to examine the freedoms we enjoy and our motivations behind our actions. Is it possible that there are times we should choose to abstain, not out of legalism, but because we love those around us and don’t want to be a stumbling block for their faith? As we move forward in our Christian walk, let us choose to put the cares, concerns, and challenges of those who are new in their faith and still seeking as an extension of our love of our Beautiful Savior.

Steve LaMotte (@steve_lamotte) is Pastor of Hope United Methodist Church in Dover, Delaware. He has been a speaker, teacher, worship leader, and dean at Delanco Camp. For Lent, he has chosen to abstain from watching The Bachelor and The Jersey Shore. Image credit: Corey Grunewald, via CreationSwap

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