The Law of Love and Liberty
Reading: 1 Corinthians 7, 8
The Corinthian church enjoyed its freedom in Christ—to excess. That sounds like an oxymoron. How can freedom not be, well, free? As in no restrictions, no limits, no rules.
So it must have been a rude awakening for the Corinthians to receive Paul’s letter through which he reminded them that the Law of Love needs to be applied to every liberty in life.
“Be careful, however that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak” (I Corinthians 8:9, NIV).
The specific issue here was eating meat that had been offered to idols and then resold to the general public (since idols are on no salt, no fat, no protein, no nothing diets). Paul makes a point of saying that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the meat since an idol is nothing. So for the believer who is secure in his beliefs, a hunk of meat is simply a hunk of meat—neither good nor bad in itself.
The lesson was that those who had no problem eating what the idols couldn’t, and were perfectly justified in doing so, needed to be conscious of those among their number who were still tender about eating what had been used in a pagan ceremony. For the sake of not leading a brother astray, the stronger believer was to refrain from eating that meat.
No biggie—choose something else to set on the table.
The answer seems obvious, but I guess it wasn’t since Paul had to write to the believers in this church about the issue. And it wasn’t simply that the weaker believer would be confused or offended. Paul used a very strong word to describe the result of not practicing the Law of Love.
“So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge” (8:11, NIV, emphasis mine).
How often do we think about the impact that the exercise of our liberties has on others? And if we don’t think about it, can we plead ignorance and get away with it when we face Christ at the judgment?
According to Paul, the damage is not confined to the destruction of another brother—bad enough. When we don't practice the Law of Love and restrict our liberties for the sake of others it is sin for us, and it is a sin against Christ. Paul writes: “When you sin against your brother in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.” (8:12, NIV).
If nothing else, this final statement should give us pause for thought every time we are about to exercise our legitimate freedoms. It certainly did for Paul: “Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall” (8:13, NIV).