We can often tell the story of the Bible by telling a story of food—from taking the fruit in the Garden of Eden to selling a birthright for a pot of soup, from God’s people being fed manna in the wilderness to birds bringing bread for Elijah, and finally to Jesus’ miraculously feeding thousands, instituting the Lord’s Supper, and the great party to which we’re all headed. We can trace redemption through food as one way God provides for God’s people.
So when Paul writes to the Corinthian church about food offered to idols, it’s not some throwaway statement. Because only some of the meat would be used for sacrifice to false gods, a temple could serve as a banquet hall or butcher shop, or the meat could be later sold in the marketplace. How were these Christians supposed to respond?
Paul shows us that love is the binding feature of Christian action. While eating in the temple of a foreign god makes one a participant in idolatry, there are blurry lines too. Wisdom is required. Though one might have the liberty to eat meat, it may cause someone weaker to stumble. Like Paul, we must be willing to abstain from something if the gospel prohibits it or if it causes a newer Christian’s conscience to be wounded.
While we aren’t likely debating whether we should eat meat that has been sacrificed to an idol, we do face countless decisions about how we walk in the world as Christians. Are we willing to let our preferences and even our liberties go for the good of another believer? Will we care about our neighbor and sibling in Christ enough to change our behavior? And if not, how deeply has God's good grace and provision sunk in?
God, help us to fully experience grace so that we are willing to be inconvenienced for the growth of your kingdom. Spirit, examine our hearts and show us how to love you and others. 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 also gracious and merciful. Paul instructs the Corinthians to place the rights of others before their own rights. A person’s conscience may allow one 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. For what are you praising God today? How have you experienced God’s steadfast love recently?
Read 1 Corinthians 8:1-13. What do you think of Paul’s statement, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up”? Can you think of examples of this in your everyday life?
Read Mark 1:21-28. How do you react to the concept of authority? How does the authority of Jesus differ from the authority we may encounter in the world?
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