Teaching in Authority

Some years back we opened our home to a couple who were both recovering alcoholics. They assured us that our drinking wouldn’t hurt them and that they had to learn to cope with alcohol around them. One look at the hunger in their eyes as I poured a glass of wine was enough to tell me that my drinking was challenging and probably harmful to them. I could enjoy one glass and stop. They could not. Was it my fault if they didn’t know how to stop? No, but according to Paul in 1 Cor 8:1-13 it was, and remains my concern. We live in a world where individual rights almost always hold sway over the needs of others but Paul wants us to know that knowledge without love “puffs up”, while wise and knowing love “builds up” the community. At the heart of Paul’s message is the irony of Christian understanding of freedom. Freedom is not the right to do as I wish. Christian freedom is grounded in love, God’s love for us in Jesus Christ. Perhaps it is best described as demonstrated in marriage. As a wife, I am to love my husband putting him first in all I do. He is to love me in the same way. Our energy is directed to loving the other. That way we are both loved and nurtured more thoroughly than if we directed our love at ourselves. It is meant to work the same way in community too. For that reason, in any dispute, relationships are as important an element in decision-making, as are the facts of the case. Paul comes down very hard on those who justify their case based on correct argument. He himself is ready to give up the behavior that causes distress for others (in this case eating meat offered to idols) even though he is perfectly entitled to continue. In our church community we are called to model this kind of care for one another to the world. That is how we “put our money where our mouth is.”

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