Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.
Thoughts for Today:The argument Paul makes against eating food sacrificed to idols is not based on the sinfulness of the physical act, but rather on the impact it can have on others. Paul has consistently taught that we must always think about the effect of our actions upon other people. However, many Christians debate this teaching because of what seems to be an opposing instruction from John 5:44: "How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?" As a result, the issue can take on a different level of complexity: "Is the exercise of our personal freedom a stumbling block for our brothers and sisters in Christ, or are we simply giving in to the pressure of popular opinion?" In our passage today, Paul's warning relates to the potential problems encountered if we apply only one of these principles without the equalizing effect of the other perspective. So rather than contradicting each other, these truths actually provide balance.
Paul gave us two tests to help us evaluate whether we should stand firm without compromise (by conviction), or give up our freedom (in love). The first consideration is to objectively analyze what the effect of not exercising our freedom will have on us personally. The second is how our action might negatively influence a weaker believer. If we find something to be critical to our faith, then we must be certain to follow our convictions. (Galatians 5:1: "Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.") On the other hand, if the issue is relatively insignificant, but our actions would bring harm to another, then in love we are to honor others above ourselves. (Romans 14:17-18: "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.")
Questions to Ponder:Is there an area of your Christ-given freedom that you've taken to the extreme? Not with prohibited behavior, but something that might cause another to stumble? Take a long hard look at how others perceive Jesus through your example. Is He properly represented? Have you taken liberty a bit too far?