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? We can quickly produce our rehearsed “reason” and “logic” but without any care for other’s hearts or minds. We might back up our stance with statistics or facts, or even scripture, without ever showing compassion for the other soul we are conversing with. Christians argue away on Facebook and Twitter to prove their point and win the debate, all while losing the relationship. Often even those Christians that are trying to promote love are doing it without love. Arguing from a position of “love,” but without any 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 first a quick reminder that 1 Corinthians is a response to an earlier letter written from the Corinthian church to Paul. Paul is literally answering questions on topics that they have brought up to him in that first letter. The question being addressed in chapter 8 is about eating food offered to idols. But Paul quickly cuts through to the real question – how do we love each other, even when we disagree?
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). So some of the Corinthian Christians, with this correct knowledge about God and idols, would then eat meat that had been sacrificed to those idols because they knew that the idols weren’t real and that there’s really only one true God.
So far so good, right? 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 as something a Christian must never eat. Soon the non-meat eaters were being 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.
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 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?
Extended Playlist: Love Builds Up.
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