[James speaking] "Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath."
Thoughts for Today:James is saying that if the Law through Moses had the power to save, it would have already done so, "For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath." He also says, "Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood." When you look at this list (food polluted by idols, sexual immorality, meat of strangled animals, and blood), you might think it odd that sexual immorality would be included with the rest, and to a certain degree it is because it deals with a moral issue while the other three are about sensitivity to the Jewish culture. I think James is really saying, "If Gentile believers would abstain from these things, then they would not only please God, but also get along better with us, their Jewish brothers and sisters." I'm sure the Gentile believers were participating in other inappropriate activities; however these were the big four. This compromise, (one of the reasons James is known as James the Just) allowed the church to grow without the constant friction of major cultural differences between the Jews and the Gentiles.
Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 10:23, "Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial." He then further explains in verses 31-32, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jew, Gentile or the church of God." Many times when we violate another person's sensitivity by exercising our own personal freedom, we cause another to stumble; which can lead to friction and a rift within the body of Christ. This is the issue that James and later Paul were addressing.
Questions to Ponder:Is there a behavior that another Christian displays that really rubs you the wrong way? Does the Bible prohibit this behavior? Could it be that you need to be more tolerant of another's expression of their God given freedom?
Let's say instead others are offended by something you do that you believe is not prohibited by Scripture -- "everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial." Is what you're doing "for the glory of God"? Is it beneficial? Do you need to re-think your approach?