“Therefore, if food makes my brothers stumble, I will never eat meat lest I make my brother stumble.”
(1 Corinthians 8:13)
There is so much we could talk about just in the context of this chapter here that we don’t have time to do and really unpack fully. But the basic picture is that there are people in the church at Corinth that were eating things that they were allowed to eat, they had right to eat, but in eating those things, they were causing their brother or sister in Christ to stumble in their faith. So again, we don’t have time to get into all the details, but the whole picture here is really valuable for us to see and hear in our lives, not just when it comes to what food to eat. So the whole picture that the Bible is emphasizing here is that those who may have freedom to do a certain activity, but if they do that activity would cause a brother or sister in Christ to stumble, should intentionally say, “I’m not going to do that activity because more than I want to do that activity, I want to build up my brother or sister in Christ.”
The Bible calls followers of Jesus to set aside their rights for the sake of others. This changes everything when we ask ourselves how can we live in a way that helps encourage others in their faith?
So I hear sometimes people say, “Well, as a Christian, aren’t I allowed to do this? Don’t I have a right to do that?” Well, sure. In many cases, yes, we’re allowed to do all kinds of things. We have freedom, rights to do all kinds of things. But the picture here in 1 Corinthians 8 is the Bible calling followers of Jesus to set aside their rights, to set aside their freedoms, to follow the self denial of Jesus and say, “What rights or freedoms can I give up for the good of others?” And this changes your perspective, not just on what you eat, but on every facet of your life. When you look at brothers and sisters in Christ around you and you begin to ask the question, “How can I live in a way that helps encourage others in their faith?” That’s a really good question to ask, a good question to guide decision making.
What can I do in this circumstance to best help my brother or sister grow in Christ? Like just take that posture very simply into the gathering of your church on a Sunday. Like when you go to church, aren’t you prone to say, “What can I get today? What can I learn today? What can I get out of this message?” I’m not saying that’s a bad question to ask, but what if we switched it around and we said, “What can I give today? How can I build up a brother or sister in Christ today? What can I do to encourage a brother, sister in Christ today?” This is why I’m going to church. I want to build up some other people. I want to care for some other people. I want to help some other people grow in Christ. And I think when we’re focused there, then we will grow in Christ.
We’ll receive all kinds of good grace from God as we give our lives for the good of others. We will experience so much grace in God as we give our lives for the good of others. And then when it comes to things where you might feel freedom to do this or that, ask the question, but is that good for my brother and sister? And if it’s not, we already have a posture that says I’m living to build them up. So we will gladly let go of freedoms, of rights we might have, in order to build up our brother or sister in Christ in their faith. So God, we pray for this posture. God, please help us to look out for the good of our brothers and sisters in Christ around us in the church. Please help us, oh God, to care for one another well, to serve one another well, to spur one another on toward Christ.
God, we pray that the fruit of each of our lives would be other brothers and sisters in Christ thriving in their faith because of your grace in us. Please, oh God, may it be so. Keep us from pride. Keep us from holding on to our rights and our this or our that instead of letting go of these things in order to love and serve and care for those in the body of Christ, just like you have done. Jesus, we praise you for laying aside your rights, for laying down your life that we might be saved from our sins and we might have a life in you. So God, we pray, produce this kind of Christ-like love in us, in your church. May this kind of Christ-like love mark our churches, we pray. Just a selfless, sacrificial, giving love. God, may it be so. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
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