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May 20 -- "Personal Rights are Not the Greatest Rights"

I want to take you back to the first century of the newly born Christian church. They faced an issue that today we wouldn’t think is an issue at all, but it was a huge issue back then. It had to do with whether or not Christians could eat meat that had been offered on the altar of an idol. Here is what was happening: Someone would come in with a calf and offer it to their god. The sacrifice was offered at the altar. Then the meat was taken and sold to a butcher who would then sell it in the marketplace that evening, or eaten by those in the temple itself. A debate arose in the church about whether or not a Christian could eat meat that they knew was offered to an idol.

Here is the Apostle Paul’s answer (1 Corinthians 8:1, 4, 8-13): “Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’ Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up ... Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that ‘no idol in the world really exists,’ and that ‘there is no God but one. Food will not bring us close to God.’ We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.”

In other words, Paul says this: “You and I both have the knowledge that these idols are not gods at all. Therefore, since they really aren’t offered to any kind of living god, go ahead and eat the meat that you or your host serves you.” Paul says that the Christian has the freedom to eat that meat because they have the knowledge that there are no other gods; therefore, they aren’t somehow desecrating the living God they worship by eating meat offered to idols. It is the Christian’s personal right to eat this meat.

Then Paul throws in one more rule that supercedes their personal Christian right, and it is for the sake of their fellow brethren. He says, “But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols? So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed. But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall.”

In other words, although the individual Christian has the right to eat that meat, if they know someone is around them who is new to the faith and/or weaker in the faith who are struggling with this issue and feel in their heart and soul that they should not eat any meat offered to an idol, and that person/persons are with you at the time, for their sake you must not eat that meat.

In other words, although it is the personal right for the Christian to eat meat offered to idols, but if it can potentially harm the soul of someone around them, then the rule is this: It is necessary that the Christian not eat that meat.

We are living in a very strange time right now. If the Covid virus and stay at home order was not difficult enough to navigate, now because of a decision made in the courtroom concerning people’s individual rights, somehow mass gatherings are suddenly okay and all the safety measures are no longer necessary to follow. And why is that? People will say, “The court has told me that it is my right not to have to follow this rule. And you know what? They are correct, but they may not be doing the right thing.

The Apostle Paul was saying very clearly, that individual rights of the Christian must take a back seat to the communal rights of those around them.

With that in mind, I call upon everyone to not lift up “their rights” as the most coveted rule to follow and instead practice what Jesus taught his disciples long ago. During the last supper he took off his robe, left his place at the head of the table, got down on his knees and washed the feet of the disciples. When he was done, he said this: “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord – and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set an example that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their masters, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent me. ... I give you a new command, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. ... By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples.”

Please ponder these words of God and let them soak into your soul. Then, live in a way that is best for the community, even if that means you can’t claim your legitimate personal rights.

God bless, Dan

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