1 Corinthians 8:1. Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.
Could it be that one of the greatest problems in the church today is that we are full of knowledge without love? That we quickly spout out our “reason” and “logic” without any care or concern for other’s hearts or minds. We back it up with statistics and facts, but fail to show concern for others’ hearts. Christians arguing away on Facebook to prove their point and win the debate, without winning the relationship. So much of what I read each day is void of any kind of love for the Christian on the other side of the internet. Even those Christians that are trying to promote love do it without love. They argue from a cry for love with no regard for the convictions, experiences, or especially the weaknesses of the other side. It’s passion without compassion. Truly we are a puffed up generation of Christians.
So a quick reminder that 1 Corinthians is a response to a letter written from the Corinthian church to Paul. Paul is literally answering questions on topics that they have brought up to him in that letter. Their question here is about eating food offered to idols. But Paul cuts through to the real question – how do we best love each other?
When Paul says all of us possess knowledge, he is quoting the Corinthians back to the Corinthians. As we’ve seen in previous readings, many of the Corinthians believed in a secret and spiritual knowledge that only a few would ever achieve. They understood rightly that an idol has no real existence, and there is no God but one (8:4). The Corinthian Christians, with this correct knowledge about God and idols, would then eat meat what had been sacrificed to those idols because they knew that the idols weren’t real and that there’s only one true God.
But there’s still a problem. Many other Corinthian Christians struggled greatly with this behavior. They saw that same meat as defiled by the idols, and therefore a Christian must never eat it. Soon the non-meat eaters were called “weak” by the “stronger” meat eaters.
Hopefully you’re beginning to see how none of this is loving. Those with “knowledge” (even correct knowledge) failed to love their brothers and sisters in Christ. They were arrogant. They were insulting. They were manipulative. They were divisive. And they caused other Christians to violate their own consciences. Not cool.
How will Paul address this problem?
Love – “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.
Gaining knowledge about God is not a bad thing as long as that knowledge always, always points others back to the love of God. He puts it this way in verse 3:
But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.
Way more important than knowing ABOUT God is being known by God. God knows you intimately. To be known by God is to be loved, forgiven, and accepted by God into his family. And when that happens, then, and only then, will you love God. And when we are loved by God, and when we love God, the natural next step is that we love one another. God’s great love for us frees us to love and serve others. This is why knowledge alone will never build up the church. Only knowledge bounded by God’s love can do that.
And so may I suggest that maybe the most important question we need to ask before we make a any decision isn’t “do I know everything I need to know in order to choose this?”, but rather, “will this choice be loving?” What if we asked that question before we did, or said, or wrote anything ever again? How might the world change?
“To live is Christ” is the marriage of knowledge and love. Truth and grace. But remember, knowledge alone serves no one. It only feeds the selfish flesh. But knowledge alongside love might just change the world.
Do you tend to argue with others from your superior “knowledge?” Do you try to win arguments or do you try to win relationships?
You in Christ
How can union with Christ teach us to place love over being a “know-it-all?”
Christ in you
What is one way you can practically express your love today, rather than only your knowledge?
Playlist: Love builds up.