1 Corinthians 7-8, Psalm 144
My son played ice hockey for many years. When he was a freshman in high school, he was 5'1" and weighed 95lbs., but unlike most sports if you have played ice hockey most of your life you started for the varsity team even as a freshman because of your years of experience and skating ability. In one game, my son had already scored a couple of goals and at the beginning of the third period on the face off, a player on the opposing team cross-checked (with both hands forcibly pushed the stick) against my son's neck for no apparent reason. The opposing player had to be around 250lb. My son hit the ice and held his throat, not moving much at first. Unknowingly, the other parent's father was standing directly next to me yelling and cursing at my son for "faking" his injury causing his son to be in the penalty box. The parents on my side were staring at me seeing how I would react (they all knew I was a Christian). I remained quiet and just made sure my son was okay, the other father never knew it was my son. I have seen all manner of behavior at sporting events, both youth and professional, from screaming at one's own child, yelling at the referee inferring all sorts of injustice at them, deriding the opposing team, etc. But, whether we want to admit it or not, the world is watching to see if you are going to take your Christianity and put it away in your pocket at certain times, or not.
Paul addresses issues of, "what are we allowed to do as Christians?", in chapter 8 of 1 Corinthians. In 8:1, he writes, "Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies." Just because our Christian liberty allows us to do something, doesn't mean that we should do it if another weaker Christian might stumble. He goes on further in 1 Corinthians 8:9-13, "But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak...And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble." Paul speaks about this further in Philippians 2:3-4, "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others." Paul says it is not a matter of exercising what you know to be right from wrong (in areas of non-essentials in the Christian faith), but in always deferring to the weaker Christian to help bolster their faith. This instruction is for how we act around the weaker Christian as well as the unbeliever, as he states in Colossians 4:5-6, "Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one."
Though Paul used the example of eating foods offered to idols or pagan gods which is not that applicable in today's world, applying this concept to our current times is applicable. We have heard , "In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things charity". What Paul is addressing is not the absolute essentials of the Christian faith, but rather the non-essentials. What is it that we do that weakens the faith of the weaker Christian or the unbeliever. Is it how we act at a sporting event? Is it how we state our political views? Is it how we dress? Is it whether or not we have that one drink or not? Is it how we choose to dance? Is it the jokes we choose to say? Is it how we react to current events? The question we must all ask ourselves is, are we self-centered or others-centered? We are free to do many things in our Christian life, but not at the expense of others. In truth, we are all sinners saved by grace, and we will all make mistakes in this area. Though knowledge is important, we must act on this knowledge under the banner of love. The acrostic JOY is: Jesus, then Others, then You. As we attempt to continually defer to others may we follow Paul's example, as he says in Acts 24:16, "This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men."
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: