READ: 1 Corinthians 8:1-13
THINK: Many Christians are convinced that they can do whatever their conscience allows. But your conscience is not the final judge, and Jesus’ followers are not to live simply for themselves. Flaunting your freedoms without regard to how your choices and actions influence others only proves a lack of spiritual insight. Real maturity means being willing to put aside your own rights and preferences out of concern for others. In most cases, the things you give up are no big deal, and there are likely much better things you could do to enhance your relationship with God.
RESPOND: What are the main questions surrounding the issue of “food sacrificed to idols”? (See 8:1 note.) What should be your primary consideration in making choices about issues of conscience? Why must Christians be willing to limit their own freedoms out of concern for others? What does it mean that “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up”? How do Christians who feel they understand their spiritual freedoms often prove that they really don’t know what’s best? (See 8:2 note.) Even though idols are powerless, why are they still a concern? (See 8:4-5 note.) What is meant by a “weak” conscience? (See 8:7 note.) Does this mean that people who could not, in good conscience, eat food that had been offered to idols were less mature spiritually than those who could? Why or why not? How might this passage be taken out of context and misused to justify activities that are morally and spiritually inappropriate or destructive? (See 8:7 note, sub-point 2.) How do those who willingly refrain from certain activities often demonstrate a stronger faith and conscience than those who take a lot of liberty? On whom does Paul place greater responsibility to alter their behavior for the good of others? (See 8:7 note, sub-point 3.) Why must we be careful about how our example influences others–both Christians and non-Christians? How can exercising your freedom become a “stumbling block” to others? Why is this a direct offense against Christ? (See 8:12 note.) Why should you not consider it inconvenient to give up some of your own rights so you don’t offend or mislead others?
PRAY: Ask God to help you keep love and consideration for others ahead of your own rights and preferences. Pray that your actions will never become spiritual stumbling blocks to others who are sincerely trying to serve Christ.
ACT: Read the article on Food Sacrificed to Idols, p. 1634. It’s fairly deep, but the principles covered apply to many activities that are questionable or debatable among Christians today. Perhaps you’re participating in something that is reasonably debatable and may influence others to defy their own consciences or get wrong impression of Christians’ values. If so, replace that activity with something that will benefit you and others spiritually.