Compassion Constrains Conspicuous Conduct (1 Corinthians 8:7-13)

But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.” (1 Corinthians 8:9–13, AV)

We often do not realize how certain people will look at our behavior and then see it as the seal of approval for them to do the same thing. This practice occurs in many areas of life, even in the church. When the Lord saved me in 1983, He rescued me from a life of excess. I knew that to drink alcohol in excess was wrong and to continue to look at crude printed materials was wrong. However, other than that, I had no idea regarding the standard taboos that concerned many Christians. Yes, I did smoke cigarettes, a habit I started in the military and continued for ten years. I never thought anything about it when I was saved. I even carried a pack in my shirt pocket when at church.

One night I was helping one of our church members change a motor mount on his car. It was late, and I decided to light up a cigarette. I do not know why, but offered him one. I did not know that he was an ex-smoker, but he took it and lit up. A few weeks later he went before the church on a Sunday morning and confessed he had begun smoking again and requested prayer. Honestly, I felt terrible thinking that I had caused him to stumble. I never forgot that moment. For your information, just a few months later, I quit smoking.

This is the kind of thing that Paul dealt with in this passage. There were people in the congregation who were delivered from the worship of idols, which included sacrificing animals to the false gods. They would eat of a portion of the meat sacrificed. After coming to faith, their consciences could not permit them to continue with the practice of eating meat sacrificed to false gods. As mentioned, in the previous posts, the pagan temple priests would sell the excess meat in the market. Some believers who knew that food was just food, would purchase this meat sacrificed to idols and eat it without any concern for conscience’s sake.

The problem might arise that their openness in partaking meat sacrificed to idols might embolden one whose conscience forbid such participation. Thus, when the one now emboldened partook of the meat sacrificed to an idol, he sinned against his own conscience. Moreover, Paul went on to say, that the believer who emboldened the other to eat, has also sinned against the Lord because of his emboldening the other.

Paul then concludes with this example. “Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.” Paul would rather sacrifice of his own liberty than to do anything that would cause another to stumble.

The big point here is that Christian compassion constrains conspicuous conduct. It is our conspicuous (actions that attract attention) conduct in some areas that may cause another to stumble. Historically, there have been many in Christendom. It behooves us, as believers to understand our brothers and sisters in Christ and the things with which they may struggle and ensure that we constrain our conspicuous conduct in those areas that we might not cause them to stumble.

Published by Steve Hankins, Th.D.

Steve has had extensive military, business and ministry experience. He has served for over 16 years in full time vocational ministry and many years of part time ministry in churches. He has led churches through start-up and recasting of vision. Now He resides on the Outer Banks of North Carolina where he is working to help smaller churches and believers to renew their hearts and regain the joy of the Lord.

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