Formations 08.28.2022: Being Right

1 Corinthians 8

Have you ever stopped to wonder what it would have been like to be a follower of Christ in the first century?

I can see the upside of being among the first followers of Christ: rubbing elbows with the likes of Peter and Paul and Mary Magdalene, witnessing the miracles, and hearing the bold preaching of the apostles. And of course, I can see the downside. We all know that many of those first Christians gave up everything for their faith. Their families disowned them, their neighbors shunned them, and powerful rulers persecuted them and even put them to death.

One thing we don’t consider as often as we should is how those first believers worked out how to follow Jesus in their world. We don’t have to read much of the New Testament to realize that they didn’t always agree on what was expected of them. Some believed that circumcision and other Jewish laws were still in force, even for Gentile believers. Some believed that all such restrictions were lifted in Christ’s kingdom.

So, should a faithful Christian live? Should we keep the Sabbath according to traditional Jewish restrictions? Should we keep kosher? Should we avoid meat offered to idols in the Gentile meat market? Should we just be vegetarians and sidestep the whole issue? According to the New Testament, there were Christians who did all these things.

How do we decide? No doubt, we’ll want to apply sound biblical principles to discern the right course of action. We’ll gather all available information, not only about the issue at hand but about anything the Bible might say about it. As we wrestle with these matters, we’ll likely pray more than once for God to give us wisdom.

All of that is right and commendable, but in the end, wisdom or knowledge can only go so far. When it comes to living in harmony with others, love must prevail.

In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul addresses the specific issue of food sacrificed to idols. When is the last time you ever heard of a church today splitting over that issue? I never have, though I have heard plenty of stories about contentious church meetings over worship styles, divorce, interfaith relations, and other potentially controversial issues.

For each of these topics, I wonder what our church’s practice would look like if we stepped away from the desire to be “right” and leaned into the command of Christ to love one another, love our neighbors, and even to love our enemies. Though believers today no longer wrestle with the question of idol meat, Paul’s teachings reveal principles that we can apply to other matters that threaten to divide us.


• Is Paul saying we should go along with something we “know” is wrong if it would be the more loving thing to do? Why or why not?
• What are the dangers of elevating knowledge over love as the deciding factor when Christians disagree?
• What demands does love place on us with respect to our behavior among our fellow believers?
• How does love demonstrate the deepest kind of wisdom?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.


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