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To Eat or Not to Eat

The Bible and experience make clear the Christian life is not easy. Someone summed it up this way: "Living above with saints we love, 0' that will be glory. Living below with saints we know - well, that's quite another story." It was another story at 1st century Corinth where, according to chapters 8 and 10, the church was divided up in to meat-eaters and non-meat-eaters! The issue was not whether one should be a vegetarian or if it was ethically and nutritionally okay to eat meat The issue was whether or not Christians could or should eat meat/food left over from an offering to idols in any of Corinth's many pagan temples. The apostle Paul skillfully handled the problem in chapters 8 and 10 of 1st Corinthians. Ina nutshell Paul argues that meat is meat A Christian can eat a steak sold in the marketplace even if it had been used in pagan worship. He/she has the freedom/right/liberty to do so without fearing that it would contaminate his/her relationship with God. But he goes on to argue that the fact that they can eat the meat does not automatically mean in every circumstance that they should eat the meat! The crux of the matter is found in (1 Corinthians 10: 23-24 NKJ) where Paul writes, "All things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own, but each one the other's well-being." Paul makes clear that while eating the meat would not harm the meat-eater's own relationship with God, it may indeed do harm to other Christians who had a conscience problem eating the meat. Therefore, the Christ-like thing to do would be not to eat the meat, at least not in the presence of the Christian whose conscience continued to be bothered by the practice.

Among other things, these passages teach there are times when sin may not be in an action we take but in the attitude and choice we make in a matter! Meat-eating was not forbidden by God - and yet Paul admonishes the meat-eaters to "Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God" (1 Corinthians 10: 32 NKJ). The take-home point from the passage is that being a Christian is not just about "me" - it is also about "we," as the following story suggests. The Lone Ranger looked up at the hills to the west and said to Tonto, "There's a big war party of Sioux on the top of that hill." Tonto said, "We will go to the east" The Lone Ranger said, "There are Pawnees approaching from the east" Tonto replied, "We will go south, Kemo Sabe." The Lone Ranger responded, "Apaches are in the south." Tonto frowned and said, "North?" The Lone Ranger replied, "It looks like two million Blackfeet to the north, Tonto. What are we going to do?" Tonto started to mount up saying, "What do you mean `we,' white man?" Loving hie Christ means looking out for and sticking by others, even when doing so is not easy. The cross of Christ continues to remind us we should seek others' well-being, not just our own.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ