We should abstain from behavior that is lawful if by it we offend others.

Thursday, 9/13/12

Paul brought the faith to Corinth in the year 51, then two years later, when he had settled for a time in Ephesus, he received a series of letters from the people in Corinth. They were sending him a long laundry list of the problems they were experiencing. In his two great Epistles to the Corinthians, he took up their difficulties one by one. 

The troubling question he was addressing in the excerpt we have today had to do with eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. The city of Corinth was seated on the narrow isthmus joining Greece proper to the lower Peloponnese. It was a port on both the Aegean and the Adriatic, and superstitious sailors kept the temples busy with animal sacrifices that pleaded for good sailing weather.   

The great number of animal sacrifices to Neptune or to any other so-called god gave Corinth a surplus of meats that was more than the sailors or the temple priests could eat. So,those cuts of meat showed up in the markets at a much decreased price.

From ancient times the people had held that by eating meat that had been offered to any god one became a worshipper of that god.

The problem the Christians of Corinth were presenting to Paul was that there was a division among them on the question of whether or not they could buy and eat the cheaper meat that had been offered to idols. Some liberal Christians who thought for themselves began saying that since those gods were not real, and since the meat offered to them was cheap, that it was alright to buy and eat it.

Opposed to that, the old conservative Christians were saying that their parents had always said such meat was unlawful for them, and they went with their parents on  that. Not only would thy not eat it themselves, but they didn’t feel right about associating with so-called Christians who ate meat sacrificed to other gods.

Paul’s response was that although the liberals were right in saying that since the gods were not real the meat was lawful for them. But since their eating such meat greatly bothered the conservative Christians, the liberals should stay away from such meat.

Two chapters further on in this letter Paul, addressing himself to a similar dispute between liberals and old-fashioned people, and he came up with good advise for the liberals who went along with anything the law allowed. He said, Christians who know their rights should not exercise those rights when their actions offend other Christians. He said, “All things that are lawful are not necessarily expedient.”

When it comes to our differences over politics or any other phase of life, we might be confident that our view is the correct one, but it is not expedient for us to push our view on those who are offended by them.  

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