1 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.
4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6 yet 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.
7 However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
I am consistently amazed by how God’s Word comes back to new situations and speaks freshly to them. Paul addressed a situation in Corinth in which some folks were using their freedom to the detriment of others. They had knowledge, correct knowledge as Paul admits, but they had a deficit of love. They knew that the meat which had been sacrificed to idols had been sacrificed to no real god. Such idolatry was empty. But Paul urged them to loving caution in the exercise of that dietary freedom. The Christian who was scandalized by their culinary choices might be harmed, even destroyed, by something as trivial as a menu choice.
Paul wrote for a time when some in the congregation in Corinth were using freedom as a statement, an opportunity to exercise their freedom to the harm of another. When the recent pandemic was raging I spoke to a friend of mine from my days at seminary. His youngest son was on his vicarage (internship). COVID had run through the entire staff at the large congregation to which he was assigned, it took his supervisor. Many members of the parish had insisted on the exercise of their freedom and worshipped without a mask. Does it matter whether their knowledge about the efficacy of mask wearing was right or wrong at that moment? The following Sunday, when that parish gathered and some wore masks and others did not, I wonder what currents were running through that fellowship. Their pastor was dead. Did some accuse others? Did some accuse themselves? How did the assertion of Christian liberty sound differently? Could they hear forgiveness for what they had done? Paul’s words are clear here. Knowledge which is not rooted in God’s love for all people, and which results in the exercise of freedom without regard for the other, puffs up but does not build up. By your knowledge you may destroy a weak brother, weak either in body or faith, a brother for whom Christ died. Sinning against your brother, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble or refusing to wear a mask during a pandemic endangers his life, I will never eat meat and will always wear a mask lest I harm that brother.