Your knowledge and opinion are less important than the faith and hearts of others.
By the grace of God, I don’t have any major food allergies. If you saw me in junior high, you would’ve understood that just by looking at me… because I ate so much food… all the time. There are foods I don’t like, sure, but none yet that I have come across that will do some serious damage if I eat them. Peanut butter, dairy products, eggs, these are things I eat pretty often and would be bummed if I couldn’t eat them anymore. However, if I ever lived with or was near someone who had a severe nut or dairy allergy, I would not eat those things. I would live and eat as if I myself were allergic to them. I imagine that you would do the same. When a student in our ministry has a severe allergy of some kind, we do all that is necessary to make sure they don’t come in contact with that certain food group on a trip or during a service. If there is the potential for pain, the solution is to simply not have that food around anymore.
For Paul and the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 8 this was about food sacrificed to idols in lieu of food allergies, but the principle translates. There were new believers in the church that refused to eat certain foods because they had been “sacrificed to idols.” Really, it was just normal food. Nothing magical happened, because idols aren’t real and, therefore, the sacrifice was also not real. The meat simply remained meat. However, because these new believers were getting caught up with this issue, which Paul makes clear is totally okay for them to do, he encourages those more mature in the faith to live and eat with the new believers in mind. Put simply, in verse 13, Paul writes, “if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again…” If there is the potential for pain or sin, the solution is to simply not have that food around anymore. This is sacrificial living.
Now, you probably don’t spend a lot of time around food sacrificed to idols or really deal with this specific issue ever. So, let’s change “food sacrificed to idols” to “strong opinions on Facebook that the world just has to know”. Perhaps you have had the thoughts of “my friends need to know this” or “if this offends someone, they can unfriend me.” Paul has something to say about that. If what you are posting or sharing is in some way causing another to sin or become weaker in their faith, then simply do not do it. If your Facebook wall or Instagram story is hurting your efforts to evangelize and disciple the people God has placed in your life by alienating or jading them, then simply do not write the post or share the video. Eugene Peterson, in The Message translation of the Bible, puts it well: “…sometimes our humble hearts can help us more than our proud minds.”
The whole of the Christian life is one of sacrificial living, of self-denial. In an age of trolling, shouting, hatred, and extreme selfishness, the Christian is, very clearly, called to a life of compassion, listening, kindness, and extraordinary selflessness. This is the example of Jesus. In Philippians 2, Paul writes: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…” Read the whole chapter. There is no wiggle room here. Your knowledge and opinion are less important than the faith and hearts of others. Let us practice that cruciformed humility both this year and in the rest of the years that God so graciously gives to you and me.