1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: 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 him. Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “no idol in the world really exists,” and that “there is no God but one.” Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth – as in fact there are many gods and many lords – 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. It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.
“Food will not bring us close to God.” We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols? So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed. But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall.
A Christian community is supposed to be a different kind of place. It is supposed to be better than other places in our world. It often isn’t. Churches can be full of gossiping, infighting, backstabbing, and petty small-mindedness. I have seen it many times and it is always a nightmare. But when the Holy Spirit is present in a parish and the people pay attention to the Spirit, then a church community can be a holy and lifesaving place. In the end, it’s all about the Spirit of love.
Paul says it best in our reading for today, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” For a church that is striving to be a healthy and holy place, this means it is better to be loving then it is to be right. How many church fights tear apart a community because some of the people have their teeth around an issue and they are determined to be right. They are right and the others are wrong and that’s the end of the story. When that happens, people become entrenched and then follows the gossiping, infighting, backstabbing, and petty small-mindedness. By contrast, when a community strives to pay attention to the Spirit, there is room for some loving humility. This loving humility always forces us to admit that the person we disagree with is more important than the issue that divides us. Love builds up a community, having to be always right can often tear one down.
The same is true for families and marriages. Your spouse, your child, your parent, may be completely wrong about something. But what matters most is that you love them enough to rise above your “rightness.” They may be wrong, but do you understand where they are coming from, do you know how they feel, do they know you love them far beyond whatever it is they are so wrong about? Love builds up a marriage or a family, having to be always right can often tear one down.
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son. Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.