The Old Heave Ho

I Corinthians 8:12 “When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ” (NIV).

Observation: In this short chapter Paul warned of problems caused when we act from our knowledge base without first bathing our actions in love. Using the metaphor of food sacrificed to idols, Paul recognized that a mature believer could well understand there is nothing inherently damaging to her life in Christ by eating such food. It contained no mystical properties, and could therefore be safely consumed. However if in the eating, a less mature Christian were to see her friend at the idol’s table, her own conscience might be blunted, thus increasing her potential to fall into future sin. So Paul admonished that knowledge isn’t enough. We must approach confidence in our own freedom in a spirit of love for the less mature so their weak consciences might avoid wounding.

Application: Does Paul seem to be straining to make a point? After all, knowledge is one of the spiritual gifts, isn’t it? Are we not encouraged repeatedly in Scripture to develop knowledge of the precepts of God? Think of it this way: We are each at a different place in our spiritual journey. Paul was simply making the very reasonable point that with maturity should come the realization that love trumps all.

Our every decision to operate in freedom must be run through a sieve of love. Only actions that can penetrate the sieve are acceptable in light of how the less mature among us might be impacted. Dross thus caught may not be personally harmful but ought to be avoided for the sake of how others might view it.

An example in our family occurred when our children were young. Dear friends were visiting, and since we had no permanent television in our home, everyone was excited to see our friends’ rented video on the portable TV. The movie had played only a few minutes before I became so offended at the foul language invading our home that I unplugged the TV and gave it the old heave-ho over the deck railing where it remained for the balance of the summer. Love requires that we act in a way that guards the hearts and minds of others so as to prize their efforts toward righteousness over my confident freedom. Here may be a useful test: if I knew that my impressionable young child saw what I was looking at or heard what I was hearing or did what I was doing, would it change what I chose to see, hear, or do? Moment by moment, these things do matter.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You call me to a standard much higher than mere knowledge. You require that I moderate my behavior for the benefit of others. Increase my discernment toward areas of my life that might cause another to stumble. Thank You, Lord.

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