1 CORINTHIANS 8:1-13
1Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that "all of us possess knowledge." Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; 3but anyone who loves God is known by him.
4Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that "no idol in the world really exists," and that "there is no God but one." 5Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth - as in fact there are many gods and many lords - 6yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
7It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.8"Food will not bring us close to God." We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols? 11So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed. 12But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall.
Usually we don't think of knowledge as standing in opposition to love. Doesn't the Bible itself affirm the phrase "speaking truth in love" (Eph. 4:15)? (Speaking truth is equivalent to speaking from knowledge.)
But there are times when knowledge and love are in oppositional tension. A case in point according to the passage is eating meat offered to idols.
In Corinth (as elsewhere in the pagan Mediterranean world) meat was offered to temple idols during pagan festivals. And these meat would be sold afterwards in the marketplace for consumption. Since the meat offered to such idols tended to be of high quality, many idol worshipers and non-worshipers would buy the meat and have themselves a nice meal.
Some of the believers in the Corinthian church had no qualms about purchasing such meat and eating it (sometimes eating it right in the temple area!). Other Corinthian believers, however, were of the view that such consumption was sinful or at least inappropriate for followers of Christ. So they refused.
So who was right? Strictly speaking, those who thought of meat as merely meat were correct. As the Apostle Paul noted above, idols are empty notions because there are no real "gods" connected to idols. Therefore meat offered to idols is not somehow "contaminated" with idol-power. Meat is only meat.
Now if every Corinthian believer thought this way, then there wouldn't have been any controversy to speak of. But, as the passage suggests clearly, there were enough believers who thought otherwise to give rise to a disagreement, which got Paul's attention.
So what does the Apostle Paul say? Since there's a difference of judgment about the appropriateness of eating meat offered to idols, the Apostle tells the stronger believer (the one with the stronger conscience/the one with the understanding that meat offered to idols is just meat) to give up his or her prerogative and not eat the meat! For the sake of the weaker brother or sister in the Lord.
This admonition is based on love for a fellow believer. Since eating meat could be a stumbling block to someone else, don't do it! One's freedom is limited by love. One's knowledge does not override love. Paul is not saying that we "undo" our knowledge. We know what we know. We can't pretend not to know. Paul is saying, rather, make room for others' views that might be different from yours. And if your behavior is a stumbling block to someone else's faith in God, try not to offend them. Exercise restraint for the sake of loving your brother or sister in the Lord. Love of God requires as much.
Let's pray: Father God, help us to be humble enough to acknowledge that what we know is not greater than how we love. Help us to lay aside our freedom in those situations where our behavior create stumbling blocks for other believers. May the way Jesus love others be our guide in loving our brothers and sisters in you. In Jesus' name, amen.