Daily Worship

No greater love

James Cathcart January 28, 2018 0 0
Image credit: J Cathcart

1 Corinthians 8: 1-13

1 Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’ Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2 Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; 3 but anyone who loves God is known by him.

4 Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that ‘no idol in the world really exists’, and that ‘there is no God but one.’ 5 Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

7 It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 ‘Food will not bring us close to God.’ We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9 But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling-block to the weak. 10 For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols? 11 So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed. 12 But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall.

St Paul, in today’s reading, declares that he is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice…and become… a vegetarian. How much you just gasped, how far your jaw dropped, how many smelling salts were required to bring you round… depends on how much of a carnivore you are.

Is eating meat really bad? Is the road to hell paved with marbled pork chops? Is verse 14, ’Thou shalt totally not scoff meat, yes - even Chicken Kievs’?

No, whether or not meat is bad is beside the point (there are to my knowledge no references to Chicken Kievs in the Bible). In Paul’s time, as in our time, there were many arguments for and against eating meat, (both in general and specific meats). Then, and now, it’s not a black and white issue, most people would accept environmental impact and animal treatment are important factors.

But Paul’s not declaring his would-be vegetarianism because he thinks meat is in itself ‘bad’, he is doing so because in his cultural context what you eat - and how - is hugely important. He lived in a society with many competing ideas about what you should and shouldn’t eat and in whose name you should and shouldn’t eat it (kinda like now). He is stating his willingness to give up meat altogether rather than mislead people about what matters to God. 

Sometimes we are called to give habits a ‘holy ending’, not because they are bad - but because everything is connected. These might be small personal decisions that we make for a time and not forever. Even so they may cause surprising reverberations. Imagine if Paul were blogging today and said, “I will never eat meat again because the horror of large scale factory farming is an affront to creation and part of an economy that dehumanises us all and destroys the planet - I’d hate for anyone to think God wanted me to be any part of that system.”

Dear God,

Help us take an inventory of our lives

and help us to let go of things

which while perhaps not bad in themselves -

lead to pain for others.