S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 8:7 It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 “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. 9 But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 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? 11 So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed. 12 But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 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.
O (Observation): Paul is continuing to attempt to build up community amongst the body of Christ located in Corinth. Some folks have reached a point in their faith in which eating food dedicated to idols is not an issue, since they are mature enough to understand that the idols don’t exist, so it’s not really eating to an idol, thus not an issue of wrongdoing.
Yet for those for whom eating food to idols still seems sinful or wrong, because it is dedicated to an idol, Paul suggests avoiding that behavior – don’t eat the food!
…at least, don’t eat the food in the temple of the idol. Just order it “to-go.”
A (Application): As a pastor, I feel like Paul is talking directly to me. I am constantly wondering what other people might think of my actions. Do they know I’m a pastor? Do they think I should be avoiding something? Or I should be showing up somewhere else?
I used to ask myself these questions a lot more a decade ago. I have found over time that my actions do have an impact on those I hope to lead. And in my life, I have done well and I have erred.
I engage in multiple communities: family, friends, church, retreat groups, colleague groups, and more. As I gather together for worship or fellowship or just hangout time, I have come to be more and more true to myself, checking in with my groups as I live my life.
If I have found that I have caused others to fall into doubt, I explain why I was doing what I was doing. In cases where I caused others to trip, I humbly seek forgiveness. I try not to live looking over my shoulder, but I do wish for those who might stumble to be safe, as well. Perhaps those moments of others’ tripping (or mine) are actually moments in which we dive deeper into a relationship of mutual upbuilding.
P (Prayer): Lord, help my actions (and faults) to be moments of growth. Amen.