Love and Liberty

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #119

“If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof: Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience?” (1 Cor. 10:27-29).

So Paul gives us a little scenario to help us understand how love and the conscience of others should intersect. He presupposes first that a pagan invites you to a dinner party, and he makes it clear that it is lawful to go if you want to. When you go, you have no responsibility to trace the history of the food. Just eat—your conscience should be untroubled by whether or not the meat on the platter had been offered up to Aphrodite earlier in the week. That should a matter of indifference to you.

But if you are minding your own business, eating the food with gratitude, and somebody else comes along and says, “Oh, no! That came from the temple of Aphrodite!” you should then refrain. You refrain for the sake of his conscience, not your own. Your own conscience knows that the meat is not demon-possessed. Paul here repeats his refrain that the earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness. Paul repeats himself to make it clear—you are refraining for conscience, but not your own conscience. If you were alone, it would be perfectly fine to eat the meat. My liberty is not constrained by his conscience, but my love is. Because I refrain for his sake out of love, my liberty is not at all chafed.

There are several modern areas of application. First, note that Paul does not care about the history of the food chain for any moral reasons. We are not contaminated spiritually by food that has been in a pagan temple, or in a chicken barn, or grown on a plantation owned by an evil corporation. The history of food can have something to do with salmonella, sure enough, but it has nothing whatever to do with “ethical” eating.

But if your brother comes to you with a concern about that history, you have a two-fold task. One is to not surrender the doctrine that the earth is the Lord’s, and the other is to love your brother. Sometimes loving him means you must refrain from eating, as here. Other times it means that you must love him by absolutely refusing to cooperate with his false scruples (Col. 2:16, 20-21). Life is hard. Love the Lord, love his material creation, all of it, and love your brother.

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Michael A. Coughlin
Guest

Ok, brother, I’m with you up to this point…but you haven’t (seemingly) answered the $1,000,000 question.

When does loving him

mean you must refrain from eating?

AND

mean that you must love him by absolutely refusing to cooperate with his false scruples?

bethyada
Member

Michael, I think Don Carson gets it when he says this: If I’m called to preach the gospel among a lot of people who are cultural teetotallers, I’ll give up alcohol for the sake of the gospel. But if they start saying, “You cannot be a Christian and drink alcohol,” I’ll reply, “Pass the port” or “I’ll think I’ll have a glass of Beaujolais with my meal.” You are giving up meat because the weaker brother is concerned for idolatry, that is his concerns are for loving the Lord his God, the first commandment. If he does not understand his… Read more »

MK
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MK

Mr. Wilson, Thanks for the helpful post. Applying the principles taught by Paul in 1 Corinthians 10 to modern day issues of food history and “ethical” eating, how does one both eat food from an evil corporation while also speaking the truth about the evil of the corporation from which it has come? Do you think that the issue of whether it is godly to eat good food with an “evil history” is a question which people should be constrained in their actions by love of their neighbor to abstain from eating such food for another’s conscience? Would you also… Read more »

Katecho
Member

The weaker brother is the one who is disturbed but may not say a thing about your eating of meat from the temple of Aphrodite. Maybe he used to work there, or is a brand new Christian. The weaker brother is the one who really is tempted by alcohol, or cheesecake, even though he acknowledges your freedom. In other words, the weaker brother is the one who knows or thinks himself to be weaker in relation to other Christians. The one who isn’t a weaker brother is the one who thinks he is superior in his actions. He has added… Read more »

Robert
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Robert

The most likely application issue will be alcohol

Matthias
Guest

As a good friend once put it: The provisions made in the New Testament for the weaker brother are not intended to keep him weak.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

“First, note that Paul does not care about the history of the food chain for any moral reasons. We are not contaminated spiritually by food that has been in a pagan temple, or in a chicken barn, or grown on a plantation owned by an evil corporation. The history of food can have something to do with salmonella, sure enough, but it has nothing whatever to do with “ethical” eating.” I am certainly not seeing this application from that passage. Eating food that someone might think is “spiritually contaminated” is not in any way comparable to funding an evil corporation.… Read more »

L Butler
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L Butler

Is there truly a one-to-one application/comparison to be made here? Maybe there is, I’m really asking. Paul’s admonition had to do with religious scruples, it seems to me, not food scruples. The food was just the example he used. And there are plenty of examples of this but they are always tied to pagan religious ceremony or dietary restrictions from God Himself. It must have been such a shock for the faithful Jew-now-Christian to see godly people eating pig. It must have been painful for the new convert to smell meat offered at the site of his former bondage, served… Read more »

bethyada
Member

Eating food that someone might think is “spiritually contaminated” is not in any way comparable to funding an evil corporation.

If one is allowed to eat meat sacrificed to demons, how much more is he allowed to eat meat sold by evil men.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Because, bethyada, eating the food in no way helps the demons do their thing.

bethyada
Member

I may choose prudence if I have a choice of whether to buy from a Christian friend or neo-Nazi wholefoods; but if I need milk and he is the only place open, I think I am free to purchase from him. I am not so certain that meat markets devoted to false deities are of no power (2Ki 3:27). Thus freedom in greater matters implies freedom in lesser ones. We love God first, and then our neighbour. If loving God frees us to eat food others offer to those who try and compete against God because we know God created… Read more »

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

bethyada, would you get prenatal services at Planned Parenthood? Or wear clothing made by Playboy company? Or buy morphine that funds Al Queda? Perhaps you would. And I wouldn’t stop you. But I’d still keep arguing that you shouldn’t. Money holds a huge amount of power in the world, and God makes it clear that what we do with our money certainly does matter. If we’re financially funding the Planned Parenthoods and Playboys and Al Quedas of the world, not to mention corporations that use lust to sell their products, oppress their workers, or make their profits by destroying poor… Read more »

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

bethyada – I was thinking about what you said, and two points continue to bother me: “I am not so certain that meat markets devoted to false deities are of no power (2Ki 3:27).” Are you disagreeing with my claim that Christians who eat the meat aren’t helping demons do their thing? Because if eating the meat DOES help the demons do their thing, then I seriously doubt that Paul would encourage it. “Thus freedom in greater matters implies freedom in lesser ones. We love God first, and then our neighbour.” No, that is not a claim found anywhere in… Read more »