“And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.” (1 Corinthians 8:11-12 NKJV)
There’s an ongoing struggle between those who claim liberty and grace to act however they please, and those who remember what life was like when they were separated from God. Those who felt like they could live however they please claimed that this was because they were strong in the faith and they tended to look down on those who were weak and avoided certain behaviors. The big problem back in those days was meat offered to idols. Paul reminded those who were strong, at least in their own minds, that they had a responsibility toward their weaker brethren. If the bought meat at the local temple and ate it where the weaker brother could see, they could cause problems of conscience for their “weaker” brother which would result in them sinning – at least in their own mind. While eating meat offered to idols might not be a sin in itself, if it caused a “weaker” brother to stumble, it would be a sin against them and a sin against Christ.
It would be easy to blow this teaching off by noting that we don’t have the problem of meat offered to idols today. Still, the concept behind the teaching is still important today. There are many Christians who have come out of a lifestyle of sin who are sensitive to those things which separated them from God in the past. While “stronger” Christians might not give into the temptation these things or activities present to hurt their relationship with God, when they indulge in them, they encourage “weaker” Christians to falter and may tempt them to go back to their lifestyle of sin. The world today is saturated with different pleasures for which overindulgence is a sin. While “stronger” Christians may not be affected by the temptation to overindulge, “weaker” Christians, tempted by those who are stronger, may fall back into the trap of sin. One of the biggest problems I have, as a weaker Christian in this area, is alcohol. While it’s not a sin to drink alcohol, it’s a sin to overindulge and get drunk. The ads for alcohol saturate our world. I can ignore those. I do have a difficult time when people who I know are strong Christians proudly show off what they’re drinking. The temptation is real. I doubt I’ll return to drinking, but there were some days when I was teaching when it would have been easy to fall back into what for me would be sin. The message from Paul stays the same: consider your weaker brother (or sister) when you might otherwise engage in something that has been a stumbling block for others.
Lord, for all those people whom I might have led down the wrong path because I exercised my freedom, forgive me. When I’m tempted to fall back into previous patterns of sin, give me the grace to resist temptation.