Just Because You Can, Does Not Mean You Should
Corinth, like many cultures today, had a liberal approach to personal ethics. If something was possible then it was ok to do it. You could do almost whatever you liked as long as you stayed clear of the Roman authorities. That approach enabled corruption to thrive in business: slavery was accepted, women were often treated as property and immorality was normal in pagan worship.
But those liberal attitudes were causing a problem as new believers came into the church. Some had no concern about eating meat offered to idols, but others were very concerned and their consciences were troubled (1 Corinthians 8:7-8). There were three issues here: firstly, was the meat itself spiritually polluted; secondly, what did the association with demonically inspired worship say about the believer's relationship with God; and thirdly how did the opposing views affect the faith of other believers and the unity of the church?
Paul wanted them to understand that none of them could live in isolation. What one person in God's family did or said would always affect the others. Although something could be said or done, that did not mean that it should be done. Although we have great liberty in Christ, we often need to restrict our freedom so that we do not cause others to stumble (1 Corinthians 9:9). In other words, the Christian life is not about pleasing ourselves but honouring God, and respecting the growing faith of others around us. After all, the church is His and not ours; and our life in Christ is only possible because of His grace.
Selfishness wrecks relationships. In the church it tears the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:25-26). Liberty, which comes from sins forgiven, is not a licence to pursue personal goals without considering how they are affecting others. Some church members claim their right to 'have their say' about some issue, but if their words harm their brothers and sisters in Christ they are wrong. Gossip, slander and party spirit are all sins for which the Israelites paid a heavy price (1 Corinthians 10:6-10). Doing something which offends your brother's conscience is not spiritual freedom; it is an offence to the body of Christ.
© Dr Paul Adams