Thursday, July 9, 2009

Devotional - Actions Governed By Love

Good morning my friends. I pray you are looking forward to the blessings of this fine Thursday. I am looking forward to some sunshine after what seems to be a month of rain. We are continuing with 1 Corinthians 8.

Yesterday we considered how Paul began this section, writing that love is more important than knowledge. This was to set the tone of what he had to address which is, the sacrificing our freedoms for the sake of our brother or sister. Paul uses the case of meat sacrificed to idols. Paul points out that we know there is only one God and that these figures that are worshiped are nothing. Considering they are nothing, eating the meat that has been sacrificed to them is nothing as well. But then he writes:

But not everyone knows this. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. v. 7

I find this very interesting considering the decision the Jerusalem Council had made about the gentiles way back in the Antioch days:

Greetings. We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell. (Acts 15: 24-29)

You caught that part about not eating food sacrificed to idols? Paul had obviously grown in his knowledge and understanding from this point in the Church's history. This leads me to believe that this may have been a problem between the gentile and Jewish believers. And this is where love comes into it:

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol's temple, won't he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. vv. 9-12

So the thought of restricting our own freedom for a brother or sister is not a matter of avoiding being judged. Paul's concern was that we would lead people to sin according to their own convictions, because we must all live by the convictions that we have. In his letter to the church in Rome Paul refers to these things as disputable matters. Sure, we can prove our superior knowledge and convince people to do what they believe to be wrong but Paul makes it clear that when we do this we are sinning against Christ.

Maybe this is difficult for you to understand because we are accustomed to debate, when we argue our knowledge in order to win over someone to our thinking. However, spiritually it is wrong. Conviction does not belong to us, it is the domain of the Holy Spirit. He convicts us of right and wrong and he does so over time, as a child grows in knowledge over time. We would not try to teach a child how to drive a car at the age of six years. Neither does the Spirit force anything on people who are not ready for it. So we are wrong when we try forcing things on brothers and sisters who are not ready. We are interfering with the work of the Spirit.

You can insert any activity in this chapter. We could talk about dancing, movies, how we dress, any number of things. If people do these things when they are convicted it is a sin then it becomes a sin for them because it is an act of disobedience. If we convince someone to come watch a movie when we know they think it is a sin then we have just sinned by drawing them into sin. Do you love them enough to not go to the movies ever again until they have reached a greater maturity, if they ever do? It is difficult, isn't it but that is love.

Maturity is something we should all be striving for and we can encourage each other on in this pursuit. It comes from serving the Lord daily as we study the Word. Maturity comes with "doing" the Word. It takes maturity to be willing to set aside our freedom for a brother or sister. Read Paul's heart felt conviction on the matter:

Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall. v. 13

It's funny that we will say that we love people enough to die for them but do we love them enough to live for them? Let's listen to the Spirit, let's remain sensitive to our fellow believers, and let our actions be governed by love.

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