When my wife was pregnant with Andre, our youngest son, she stopped eating meat altogether and became a vegan, and until today our 2 ½ year old son has never tasted any meat at all. I have tried to feed him chicken, bacon, and sausage, he spits it all out every time. During her pregnancy, I tried to support her by not eating meat either, but that only lasted for a few days. I found myself going out for burgers while I was at work, hoping that Rose would not find out. I felt guilty, like I was doing something terribly wrong; so, eventually we had to talk about it and we agreed that I could eat meat away from the house, because she did get sick any time she smelled meat during the pregnancy. Needless to say, Jamal, my oldest son, and I took frequent trips to different restaurants around town. I have the right to eat meat anytime I want and anywhere I want, especially in my own house, but I freely gave up that right for the benefit of my wife and the well-being of my marriage.
In 1 Corinthians 8 – 10, Paul is dealing with a very sensitive issue among Christians in Corinth: eating food sacrificed to idols. Remember, eating the Lord’s Supper demonstrates a willing and active participation in God’s covenantal relationship with his saints (1 Cor. 10: 16-17). Therefore, the Corinthian Christians who engaged in eating sacrificial food at tables where offerings were being made to idols, and not to God, were frowned upon and accused of committing idolatry. Drawing from his audience’s understanding and reverence of the Lord’s Supper, Paul argued that eating cultic meals result in worship of and allegiance to demons, while still maintaining his adherence to monotheistic values (1 Cor. 10:19-22, 8:1-6). Even the Jerusalem council, comprised of the apostles and the elders of the Jerusalem Church, wrote in a letter that abstaining from food sacrificed to idols was an essential requirement of being a disciple of Christ (Acts 15:28-29). Now, it is important to keep in mind that Christians have received freedom in Christ Jesus (John 8:36, Galatians 5: 1) – freedom from sin and death (Romans 6) – freedom from the Mosaic Law (Romans 8: 1-4) that often prohibited Jews from eating certain foods. However, this newly found freedom cannot be used as an excuse to do evil (1 Peter 2: 16). Paul said “Eat whatever is being sold at the market place.” If one knowingly participates in a cultic meal for the purpose of idol worship, that person is wrong. However, Paul’s main concern about eating such food is not the fact that it may, at some point, have been used for idol worship but the context in which it is eaten. Anyone is free to eat anything in a nonreligious, non-cultic context, as long as it is being taken with genuine thanksgiving to God who supplies all food (1 Cor. 10:30).
Some of the Christians wanted to be able to exercise their freedom to eat whatever was sold from the marketplace and not be judged for it: “For why should my freedom be limited by what someone else thinks? If I can thank God for the food and enjoy it, why should I be condemned for eating it?” (1 Cor 10: 29-30, NLT). Indeed, they had the freedom to eat whatever was sold at the marketplace without fear of judgment, but Paul wanted them to consider more the collective benefit of the Church and less their own self-interest. To be more specific, there are two questions I want us to consider: a) How is your freedom beneficial (1 Cor. 10:23), b) Is it a stumbling block for your fellow believers (1 Cor 8:9). In other words, Paul is not arguing against their respective freedom to do what they think was the right thing to do, but Paul wanted them to think more collectively and less individually. Disciples of Christ need to be looking out for the collective well-being of others and not their own selves (1 Cor. 10: 23, 33), after all “Love is not self-seeking” (1 Cor. 13: 5). In the text (1 Cor.10:23), the Greek word translated “beneficial or helpful” implies a “bringing together.” Basically, Paul was asking: how is your freedom going to help bring people together, or would it just isolate you from the fellowship for the sake of exercising your rights? As Disciples of Christ, we have a responsibility to seek, not what is beneficial to self, but what enables a godly and spiritual edification of the entire Christian community.
During this pandemic, it is imperative that we continue to think about what it is that we can do to actively and positively contribute to the collective well-being of our fellow neighbors, especially those of the household of faith (Gal. 6:10). I am not a medical expert/professional, but I do believe listening to their council and guidelines can provide us with a clear understanding as to how we can actively contribute to the collective well-being of our Church community. “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.” (Phil 2:3-4)
I love you all, Donny Pierre