Summary: Our rights and responsibilities are like the tension on the trigger of a loaded gun; properly handled they are a blessing -- improperly handled they are dangerous.

February 10, 2002

1Now let¡¦s talk about food that has been sacrificed to idols. You think that everyone should agree with your perfect knowledge. While knowledge may make us feel important, it is love that really builds up the church. 2Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn¡¦t really know very much. 3But the person who loves God is the one God knows and cares for.

4So now, what about it? Should we eat meat that has been sacrificed to idols? Well, we all know that an idol is not really a god and that there is only one God and no other. 5According to some people, there are many so-called gods and many lords, both in heaven and on earth. 6But we know that there is only one God, the Father, who created everything, and we exist for him. And there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom God made everything and through whom we have been given life.

7However, not all Christians realize this. Some are accustomed to thinking of idols as being real, so when they eat food that has been offered to idols, they think of it as the worship of real gods, and their weak consciences are violated. 8It¡¦s true that we can¡¦t win God¡¦s approval by what we eat. We don¡¦t miss out on anything if we don¡¦t eat it, and we don¡¦t gain anything if we do. 9But you must be careful with this freedom of yours. Do not cause a brother or sister with a weaker conscience to stumble.

10You see, this is what can happen: Weak Christians who think it is wrong to eat this food will see you eating in the temple of an idol. You know there¡¦s nothing wrong with it, but they will be encouraged to violate their conscience by eating food that has been dedicated to the idol. 11So because of your superior knowledge, a weak Christian,„T for whom Christ died, will be destroyed. 12And you are sinning against Christ when you sin against other Christians„T by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong. 13If what I eat is going to make another Christian sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live¡Xfor I don¡¦t want to make another Christian stumble. 1 Corinthians 8.1-13 New Living Translation

Croft Pentz once said, Of all creation, only man can say yes or no to God. This message is all about our freedom and the choices we can make as free persons.

Freedom from ritual and tradition is a wonderful and dangerous blessing. With it, our souls are liberated to experience Christ, and His power is loosed to work through us; we are also tempted to think we have no responsibility to put it to better use than just exhilaration and joy. In this chapter, Paul says that we are free from rituals, but not from our responsibility.

My generation was the 60¡¦s. We were going to change everything. All the rituals of the establishment had to go! The one thing my generation misunderstood ¡V just as today¡¦s anti-establishment groups miss the point ¡V is that, while we hated the establishment¡¦s rituals and were trying to change it all, we had our own rituals developing.

If you don¡¦t believe you¡¦re steeped in ritual, try this exercise: name one aspect of your day (today) that is not part of a ritual you¡¦ve developed.

For instance, which leg did you put in your pants first when you were dressing this morning?

On which side of the bed did you roll out today?

Do you brush first, or floss?

How about those shoe laces¡Kdid you loop over or under¡Kor did you opt for Velcro because you don¡¦t like laces?

And for you teenagers ¡V just the thought that an adult might have something here ¡V are you rolling your eyes up and to the left, or is it up and to the right?

We all have our rituals!

Several years ago there was a campaign to Throw the bums OUT! They wanted to elect everyone new to both houses. Even Thomas Jefferson, our founding father/author of the Declaration of Independence advocated regular revolutions of change. He said we should throw out all bills passed by Congress every 20 years and start over.

All those ideas sound radical; sound uncomfortable? The reason is because our rituals are tied to our routine ¡V those things which make our lives easier, simpler. We do them habitually, and without too much thought.

We don¡¦t like to change our familiar patterns; we get uncomfortable, irritable and resistant. If the routine itself is uncomfortable, it is because someone else is comfortable with it, and we¡¦d rather change it!

Our choices affect more than ourselves. That is why I call our freedom to make individual choices my loaded gun! Whatever I change will affect someone else. Whether it affects them negatively or positively, depends (largely) on which side of the barrel they stand!

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