Summary: How can we build people up...and why should we?

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1Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; 3but anyone who loves God is known by him. 4Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “no idol in the world really exists,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords— 6yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. 7It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8“Food will not bring us close to God.” We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols? 11So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed. 12But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall. (NRSVA)

This week I read a common-sense statement by William Andrew Ward about the way we live together in our world: We can choose to throw stones, to stumble on them, to climb over them, or to build with them.[1] The first three choices (throwing, stumbling and climbing over) are choices of the flesh; the last (building) is the pull of God’s Spirit against the flesh. The choices in life for Christians are filled with a tension between our human desires and the pull of the Spirit of God. We struggle between flesh and spirit.

When it comes to that struggle, and how to deal with the uncomfortable choices (stones) we hardly ever really know why the stones are there. It’s like a father and his young son who were digging stones out of a small patch of land in preparation for a garden. After a half-hour of dirt and stubborn rocks the little guy asked, Dad, what made you bury these things, anyway? [2]

In this chapter, Paul gives us a great heads-up on how to take stumbling stones and make building blocks out of them.

The Problem in Corinth

Corinth was a huge “seaport city” located just across the bay from Athens; it was a bustling commercial success. It was also a very religion-filled place; there were enough idols being worshipped there to make your head spin. At Athens they even had an idol dedicated to “the unknown god” just in case they missed one.

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