I had a drinking problem for nearly two decades before I became a pastor. Through my faith in Christ, I am now strong enough not to drink when others around me are doing so; but this is not the case for many who struggle with alcohol addiction. Being around alcohol can cause them to stumble on their path to recovery, so I try to know who around me struggles with addiction and avoid placing them in situations where there is alcohol.
Paul addresses this very problem in today’s passage. As people of faith we know that everything comes from God; we do not know God any less and are not any less known by God if we have a drink, utter a curse word, or listen to secular music. As faith leaders, though, we are called to consider what might harm others—those who struggle with addictions or who believe these things do not come from God. Might a new believer stumble if he or she saw a church leader at a bar having a drink, heard the choir director curse, or witnessed the pastor rocking out to secular music? These behaviors may not obstruct our faith, but they could get in the way of others’ faith.
Out of consideration and love for believers who hold differing views, we consciously choose to avoid behaviors that we know would cause others difficulty. Preserving the fragile fabric of community becomes a top priority. “Love builds up.”
God calls us to value Christian community above our own desires and actions; we then choose to live in such a way that we always build up one another.
Almighty God, may I remain humble in love for all your children. May I rely not only on what I know but also on what I know of the other and the love of Christ. Amen.
This week’s readings center on God’s authority. In Deuteronomy God promises to raise up a prophet to guide the people, and God warns the people not to listen to voices that do not speak for God. The psalmist overflows with praise for God’s great works. God is powerful and awesome, yet gracious and merciful also. Paul instructs the Corinthians to place the rights of others before their own rights. A person’s conscience may allow him or her to exercise freedom in Christ; however, with this freedom comes responsibility. We must surrender our own rights, if necessary, for the good of others. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus shows his power over the forces of darkness: even the unclean spirits recognize and obey him.
• Read Deuteronomy 18:15-20. To whom or to what setting do you turn when you yearn to hear God’s voice?
• Read Psalm 111. How willing are to you to immerse yourself in life? in your worship setting? What causes you to simply dip your toe in? What would help you make a fuller commitment?
• Read 1 Corinthians 8:1-13. When have you been conscious of another’s limitation in some area and intentionally chosen to avoid a certain behavior?
• Read Mark 1:21-28. Jesus calls James and John from their fishing nets. He takes them as they are exactly where they are. Where have you sensed a call from God? How did that call change your vocation or avocation?
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