Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. (1 Cor. 8:9)
Here’s a question as we near the month of July: Is America’s Declaration of Independence a statement of humanity’s “inalienable rights” or its “unalienable rights”? Historians disagree on the original wording, but since the terms are synonymous, the fate of the republic is not exactly in jeopardy. Still, let the record show that when I memorized those opening lines in the fifth grade, the word was definitely “inalienable.”
(Canadians are not burdened with this question in their Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but happy Canada Day to you anyway as you celebrate in July as well.)
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul also addressed the matter of rights. The subject was meat offered to idols. Idolatry was rampant in Corinth, where it was quite common for food presented to the Greek gods to then be served at a banquet at the pagan temple or sold in a meat market. Christians were divided over the question of whether such food was spiritually tainted.
Paul’s answer is instructive for all who grapple with issues of Christian liberty today. If eating it, he asked, causes a brother to stumble—a fellow Christian who might follow your example even though his conscience isn’t clear—is it worth the price of a steak to put a spiritual obstacle course before your brother? The issue, as Paul saw it, was not really liberty at all, but love.
Perhaps it still is.
Read 1 Corinthians 8 in the light of 1 Corinthians 13.
Bob Black is an emeritus professor of religion at Southern Wesleyan University. Along with Keith Drury, he coauthored the denominational history, The Story of The Wesleyan Church.
© 2022 Wesleyan Publishing House. Reprinted from Light from the Word. Used by permission. Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®.