“All things are lawful,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful,” but not all things buildup. – 1 Corinthians 10:23 (NRSV)
Paul lived in a world of rules, and what you could or couldn’t eat was near the top. For millennia, Jewish identity had been attached to what they did or didn’t eat. It set them apart. It made them a holy people.
The world around them ate anything they wanted. But what they held in common was that sacrifices were made to their God and gods, and often food was leftover. For the Jews, some of this food could be eaten by the priests, the people, or not at all. Certainly, they would never eat food sacrificed to another god. Not even a refining fire could purify it.
What do you do, then, when you live in a culture that is yours, yet foreign?
The Jewish Christians were no longer bound by the Jewish food laws. Everything was lawful for them to eat. However, they constantly found themselves in circumstances where the food offered had been associated with idol worship. And if not directly, then indirectly based on the piety of host.
Do not seek your own advantage, but that of the other. – 1 Corinthians 10:24 (NRSV)
Paul responds by redirecting the reader from the food itself to the relationships of those with whom we eat. He tells us not to worry about what God with think if we eat this meat for it all belongs to God (even if someone also dedicates it to a false god). Rather, are we rejecting the hospitality of someone who invited us into their home for a meal. However, if it is announced that it is food sacrificed to an idol then it is OK to decline – but only if it would harm the other. An example might be if you are with a new believer who is still struggling with the old ways.
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Every day, we find ourselves navigating the sacred and the secular. Sometimes this is discerning our own conscience. It’s important that I discern what might be a stumbling block for me even if it is “lawful”. But I must also discern my witness to others. It does not glorify God if I allow my freedom to tear them down.
Sometimes I swear. But I don’t swear in front of people it would offend.
I don’t speed. But I don’t shame those who do.
I drink alcohol. But I didn’t order a drink when I would eat with my grandparents.
We worship a God of community and relationship. We worship a God who took on humanity and dwelt among us so we could dwell with God. Even in our humanity, we decide each day how to more deeply commune with God and invite others to do so as well. Let us choose what is beneficial in order to build others up.
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. – 1 Corinthians 10:31(NRSV)Even in our humanity, we decide each day how to more deeply commune with God and invite others to do so as well. Let us choose what is beneficial in order to build others up. #FMF #love Click To Tweet
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