“Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’ This ‘knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up. … we know that ‘an idol has no real existence,’ and that ‘there is no God but one.’ … However, not all possess this knowledge. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” (1 Corinthians 8:1, 4b, 7a, 9-13 ESV)
My husband and I once visited a Vietnamese family at home. By custom, they were obliged to offer us food, but there was nothing in the house that wouldn’t require long cooking. So the mother reached up to the little family shrine on the wall, took down one of the sacrificial mangoes, sliced it, and offered it to us.
Now what should we do? It had been used in idol worship. But we didn’t want to offend the family by refusing to eat it. Fortunately, we both remembered this part of the Bible. Chau and I looked at each other, said “Saint Paul” in unison, and started munching on the mango. She was pleased that we had good manners, and we could build a friendship and talk with her about Jesus.
The same principle in reverse came up at a party later. By long custom, only men drank alcohol in public; women drank tea or soda. But I am not Vietnamese. So at parties, our hosts would offer me both beer and soda; which should I choose?
I could have gone with beer; it is my right to drink whatever I want. But God did not send us to offend people and assert our rights; He sent us to share the love and salvation of Jesus. So I chose the soda, and they were comfortable and able to listen. Their needs were more important than my rights.
This is what Paul is teaching us—to pay attention to the real needs of others, even if we think they are wrong-headed, and to be willing to sacrifice when we have to in order to share the love of Jesus Christ. So what if they’re wrong about vegetarianism or politics or whether it is moral or not to smoke? Those things are not important enough to destroy someone’s faith over. Love requires us to bear with those who are weaker and don’t see things clearly yet, and to treat them with the same love Jesus has had for us.
He came to us in our darkness and ignorance, and He saved us. He gave His life for us, and made us God’s children through His death and resurrection. He didn’t wait until we “got it right.” He met us where we were. And then, in love, He brought us to Himself.
Prayer: Lord, help me to love others as You love me. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo, republished from the Lutheran Hour Ministries
1. Would you feel weird about eating food sacrificed to idols?
2. When have you given up your rights to show love to someone else?
3. What rights has Jesus given up to make you His own?