“We know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’ Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by God.” (1 Cor 8:1-3)
As our community proceeds back to normalized rhythms of life – like working back in the office, dining out, and even gathering to worship – perhaps the Apostle Paul still has words for us.
In the divided Corinthian church, some people were freely eating food that had been sacrificed to idols knowing “that ‘no idol in the world really exists,’ and that ‘there is no God but one.’”(v 4) Paul recognized their thinking: “yet for us there is one God… and one Lord, Jesus Christ …” (v 6) In their “knowledge” they claimed to be better than others, puffed up and boasting over the life they were enjoying compared to other.
However, Paul also acknowledged that “not everyone, however… has this knowledge. Since some have become accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience… is defiled.” (v 7) Paul accepted the difference of understanding between the two sides. He did not look down upon the ones who would not eat nor did he ridicule those who would. However, Paul cautioned those who were comfortable eating food sacrificed to idols to stop out of respect for the community. He hoped for a middle space that would not offend either group.
As our community continues to transition back to more normalized life, we must be considerate of those who hold a different opinion. Some people are comfortable without masks, dining out, and resuming all the normal activities of life. Others are comfortable only with a mask, dining in, and dreaming of returning to normal life.
Neither side ought to puff themselves up or think of themselves as better than the other for having a differing opinion. Rather respect, dare I say love, one another and consider each other’s position. “But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block.” (v 9)
Living in community means balancing living for ourselves and others. Yes, we have our liberties and freedoms; however, we do not live alone.
“Therefore, if food,” or comfort, “is a cause for their falling, I (Paul) will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall.” (v 13). Or in other words, be considerate of your neighbor regarding how they feel. Don’t shame them into actions they do not feel comfortable with. And also consider the comfort of others. You ought not to shame someone who feels a bit more comfortable than you.
Therefore, let us consider what builds up: LOVE! Our shared community and hope for some sense of normalcy can be the agent of our communal love that builds us up together, binds us closer together, and helps us understand and embrace one another.