Conscience is Precious
We all hold values according to our background, knowledge and experience; by what we are taught is right and what we feel is right. Our conscience is the automatic guardian of what we believe is right. But in a confused world which despises God's Word, we may not be sure of what is right and wrong.
Our consciences, which have been muddled in this corrupted world, need to be retuned so that we learn to respond to different circumstances as Jesus did. However, at the same time, we live among a variety of believers who are struggling to know what is right. Our words and actions always affect others, and they will react to our behaviour as best they know how. We have a responsibility to help them to grow in faith and not be derailed by misunderstanding what we do.
So, in regard to meat offered to idols in Corinth: there was no problem about buying it for personal consumption, and no need to find out if it had been offered in a pagan temple … it was still good food. The Lord has provided all good things for us to enjoy, provided that we are thankful (1 Timothy 4:4). If an unbeliever served a meal including such meat, then the believer should eat it and not make a fuss. However, if somebody is proud (or ashamed) that the meat had been sacrificed to an idol, then it is wise not to eat it. It is better to forego the food than disturb somebody's conscience by giving the impression that worshipping idols is acceptable to God.
Keeping a clear conscience (Acts 24:16), and helping our brothers and sisters to do the same, is very important if we are to love the Lord and other people (1 Timothy 1:5). A clear conscience enables our prayers to be effective (2 Timothy 1:3) and to come close to God (Hebrews 10:22): it sustains us in times of persecution and gives us confidence in our relationship with the Lord (1 John 3:21). God's Word, our repentance and His mercy will heal and retune the conscience; but as other people are learning what pleases the Lord, let us not confuse or obstruct their conscience by our thoughtless behaviour (1 Corinthians 8:12).
© Dr Paul Adams