Thursday, January 17, 2013

My conscience? Yours? Or both?

'No thanks' to wine
TODAY’S SPECIAL: 1 Corinthians 10:18-11:1

TO CHEW ON: “Therefore whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

In our passage today Paul addresses a tricky cultural problem in Greece. Pagan worship (out of which many of the Christians came) involved feasts and eating. Paul warns Christians not to be a part of pagan celebrations and feasting. For just as taking part in the Lord’s Supper signified fellowship with God, taking part in pagan feasts signified fellowship with demons.

However, sometimes meat that had been part of pagan ritual found its way into the public market. What if they inadvertently bought some of that idol-consecrated meat. Were they then guilty of the same thing?

Paul advises them:
1. The meat in itself is neutral.
2. They can just not ask about the meat’s status – when it’s for sale or served in someone’s home.
3.However, if someone tells them that they are about to eat idol-consecrated meat, then they shouldn’t touch it. Why? For the sake of their own conscience, and for the sake of the person who told them and for whom eating the meat may have spiritual significance.

Of course we will probably never encounter exactly such a situation. But the principles apply to us too. We do things or refrain from doing them for two reasons:
  • Because our own conscience allows or forbids it.
  • Because we consider the conscience of our brother.

Here’s how a modern working out of those principles might look. You go to dinner with a former alcoholic. To this person alcohol means the old life of partying and bondage. For you a glass of wine with your meal is perfectly harmless. While your conscience allows you to have a drink, you’re not sure how that action will affect your friend. Therefore on this day, in deference to your friend’s conscience – considering what alcohol signifies to him and how you having a drink might actually make him feel tempted to have one too – you abstain from the wine.

As we live not only by the dictates of our own consciences, but also considering how our actions will affect others, we glorify God who is honored when every part of the Body (the Church) is healthy and pure. Can you and I be so mature that we set aside our rights in consideration of others?

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to live by the dictates of my own conscience and with others in mind, “not seeking my own profit but the profit of many that they may be saved.” (1 Corinthians 10:33)

MORE: Chris Tomlin sings “Give Us Clean Hands”

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