Hi, this is Pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…Come On, Catch Up!
When I was growing up my younger brother Gary was seemingly always waiting for me to catch up with him. It wasn’t that he was bigger or even necessarily faster, but he was always in the lead. Gary did everything fast. If Gary attempted to do something, he did it with abandon. That is just who he was. I, on the other hand am a bit more cautious. Not scared, just aware of the possible dangers. I like to do things with a tad more foresight than my brother cared for. If there was a chance he might get hurt, he would deal with it when it happened. If there was a possibility you might want an exit strategy, in his mind the time for that was when you needed it and not a minute before. Gary simply liked living life on a razor’s thin edge, that’s where he was most comfortable.
I am not comfortable operating on the edge. I am not at all against spontaneity, I just like to look both ways before I run across the street, Gary like to do that after he had crossed…just to see what might have almost hit him! I have nothing against having fun, but I want to know before hand that I’ll still be smiling when it’s over, Gary would rather wait to find out. I even enjoy a small (emphasis on the small part) level of danger, but for Gary…the more the better. So there were lots of times when we were growing up that we would end up racing, climbing, or jumping off of something and Gary would at some point in the adventure turn around and look at me and say “Come on, catch up!”
When I was reading my bible this morning I came across a scripture that immediately reminded me of Gary and the very things I have just shared with you about him. Today I was reading 1 Corinthians 8, it’s a short chapter (only 13 verses) but it has a long reach (by that, I mean it applies to a lot of things). Allow me to read it to you now from the New Living Translation.
Now regarding your question about food that has been offered to idols. Yes, we know that “we all have knowledge” about this issue. But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church. 2 Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much. 3 But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes. 4 So, what about eating meat that has been offered to idols? Well, we all know that an idol is not really a god and that there is only one God. 5 There may be so-called gods both in heaven and on earth, and some people actually worship many gods and many lords. 6 But for us,
There is one God, the Father,
by whom all things were created,
and for whom we live.
And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ,
through whom all things were created,
and through whom we live.
7 However, not all believers know 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. 8 It’s true that we can’t win God’s approval by what we eat. We don’t lose anything if we don’t eat it, and we don’t gain anything if we do.9 But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble. 10 For if others see you—with your “superior knowledge”—eating in the temple of an idol, won’t they be encouraged to violate their conscience by eating food that has been offered to an idol? 11 So because of your superior knowledge, a weak believer for whom Christ died will be destroyed. 12 And when you sin against other believers by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong, you are sinning against Christ. 13 So if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live—for I don’t want to cause another believer to stumble.
So why does this scripture remind me of my dare-devilish brother? His response of “Come on…Catch up!” when I was surveying the safety concerns of our next “escapade” that was the connection for me. I think that Gary’s attitude toward me was much the same as the attitude we can have toward other Christians if we’re not careful. My brother’s knowledge that something that looked fun to him would turn out just fine was completely and errantly based on the deduction that if he hadn’t been hurt doing it in the past, he couldn’t be hurt doing in the future. His insistence on experiencing whatever “fun” had caught his attention did, however, encourage me to go along and attempt it with him. I bear physical scars to this day that offer testimony that what I am telling you is true.
We don’t think of having idols anymore and for many of us the concept of meat being sacrificed to idols is so foreign, that we might have difficulty even understanding the dilemma of the Corinthian Church. It can be hard for us to understand what the big deal was concerning whether or not the meat that had been sacrificed to idols should be eaten by Christians. However, our lack of contextual understanding doesn’t make this scripture irrelevant…not by any means.
Christians today have other “Gray areas”. Should we drink alcohol? Is dancing ok? If so, does it matter what kind of dancing it is? Is all music ok to listen to? If not which is good, and which isn’t? Is it ok to take a vacation to Las Vegas? What if you don’t gamble while you’re there? Should we use debt to buy things we don’t have the money for? Which is the bigger problem, cigarettes, caffeine, or overeating? Have I stepped on any live wires yet?
Paul’s larger point is that our “knowledge” that tells us that we are fine to engage in a particular activity is really ignorance if we are so devoid of love for our fellow brother or sister in Christ that we do not choose to abstain from something that might encourage them to act against their conscience. He tells us that Christ looks at those things as a personal affront to Him. Our attitude might be, “What’s their problem, they should know it’s ok, after all, all things are permissible right?” Paul says, not so fast, all things may be permissible, but all things are not profitable (1 Cor. 6:12 & 1 Cor. 10:23). It is far more important to be humble and loving than to flaunt our quote-unquote “knowledge and understanding”. I think Paul would say that the next time we look back and see our brother or sister obviously considering if something is ok to engage in, we shouldn’t respond with a “Come on…Catch up!”
So now, showing how much you love Christ by preferring your brother’s and sisters’ convictions above your own…Go Be Awesome!