Summary: Because our actions influence the actions of others, we must learn to balance our freedom with responsibility.
Title: Freedom and Responsibility
Text: 1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Truth: Because our actions influence the actions of others, we must learn to balance our freedom with responsibility.
Aim: To help them practice responsible freedom toward other Christians.
Tell about man at a former church who shook hands with his left hand. Fingers on his right hand nearly gone. Wife shook hands with her left. Small son did too.
We are strongly influenced by those around us. Those we see as experts particularly influence us. We assume they know what is best and will do what is best. That’s not always true.
Paul was concerned about the way some of the leaders in the Corinthian church were influencing newcomers in the faith. Under the flag of freedom, they did things that confused and weakened the commitment of new Christians. Paul provides some needed advice on balancing freedom with responsibility.
The text talks about meat offered to idols. We question it’s relevance but the issue serves a bigger principle of balancing freedom and responsibility. Just because it is not a sin for us to do something, doesn’t mean we should do it. We need to balance our freedom with the responsibility to not harm another Christian’s walk with God. Because our actions influence the actions of others, we must learn to balance our freedom with responsibility.
If Paul were writing to the church today he might start this way, “Now concerning whether you should vote Democrat or Republican.” Or, he might have said, “Now concerning whether you should drink alcoholic beverages.” There are any number of subjects—tattoos, body piercing, public or private home schooling of your children. The issue of eating meat sacrificed to idols is a very relevant subject. What am I free to do as a Christian? Where does my influence of others limit my freedom? Because our actions influence the actions of others, we must learn to balance our freedom with responsibility.
An understanding of the background will help us to properly interpret and apply the principles of freedom and responsibility. Offering sacrifices to idols was a vital part of the pagan religions of Paul’s day. Go to a pagan temple—give best part of meat to priest for sacrifice to the god—part of offering would be burned—priest would eat what he wanted from the rest—what was left over was sold in the market. If the pagan made his sacrifice at home, the pagan worshiper would burn part of the meat to a god. The remainder he served at a feast of celebration.
One reason the pagan sacrificed meat to a god at home was to protect him from being possessed by an evil spirit. The ancient man was terrified of evil spirits. They believed that demons were constantly trying to find ways to enter their bodies and take them over. They might even be on the meat and would enter the body when the meat was eaten. But if the meat were dedicated to a good god, he would protect worshiper. These Christians had just stepped out of that belief system.
Here’s the dilemma. Should you buy meat in the market that’s been offered to idols? Should you accept the invitation to a feast where meat dedicated to an idol would be served? Am I compromising my faith? Will my commitment to Jesus Christ be questioned? Haven’t you been faced with similar questions? What do you say to your beer drinking buddies invitation to go fishing all night? Can you go to that particular movie? If you’ve asked these kinds of questions, then you know the dilemma of eating meat offered to idols.
Some Christians had no qualms buying T-bones and pork chops at the local market for a family cookout. They knew the meat was not contaminated. It was just meat. Others couldn’t help but feel that they were sinning against God. Every time they brought it to their mouth, they had a flashback to their old pagan days. They feared being judged by God for sinning.
The struggle is to know how to be in this world but not of this world. How far can you go? We don’t want to be so fundamental that we have more in common with the Taliban than we do with Christians. Nor do we want to be so liberal that there is hardly anything wrong or sinful. Christians are called to influence society for Christ. We can’t do that if we separate from our culture, and we can’t do it if we are totally assimilated into the culture. Paul gives them principles to guide their decisions.
I’m going to approach this message differently than my custom. I want to walk through the text with some explanation. I’ll give some major headings to reveal Paul’s thinking. Then I’ll close the message with four questions to guide our decisions about limiting our freedom.