The key verse:
But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? – 1 Corinthians 8:9-10 NKJV
Jesus said (Matthew 7:20), “you will know them by their fruit.” This came from His prior thought (Matthew 7:17), “every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” Therefore, you know a person by the fruit that they bear – good or bad. As Christians, we ought not be the bearers of bad fruit. Yet, as I said in my previous sermon, I struggle with recognizing other Christians nowadays. Why? Because we have gone astray from the fundamentals and ideals that Jesus Christ taught. We have gotten away from being Christ-like and living like Christ. We are quick to teach and preach out against the way of the non-believer (sinner), but we are very slow to check our very own ways – are we holding to the ways of Christ?
We must get back to Christ! We must get back to teaching and preaching the ways of Christ. We must get back to teaching and preaching living like Christ! We say that we are Christians – Christ in us, Christ-like), then it’s time we start acting like Christ!
We have liberty
In verse 9, we find the word liberty. The verse says, “beware lest somehow this liberty of yours.” Depending on which version of the Bible that you are reading from, you may see the word ‘rights’. We have ‘rights’, we have ‘liberty’. What is this liberty? Where did it come from? Liberty, we all know, means freedom. Paul says (2 Corinthians 3:17), “the Lord is Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord, there is liberty. Liberty is with God, therefore, liberty must come from God. Freedom is with God, therefore freedom must come from God.
How do we gain that liberty, that freedom? To gain that liberty we must accept the truth of the Lord. Jesus says (John 8:32), “you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free – liberty, then, is gained through knowing and accepting God’s truth. Understand the liberty and freedom that I speak of: freedom from sin, freedom from the guilty verdict of sin, and most importantly, freedom from suffering God’s wrath against sin. As Christians, we have this liberty as born again believers in Christ who have accepted, believe, and trust in the truth of God. We then therefore must take our freedom, our liberty, with great responsibility.
Abusing our liberty
Because we are saved from sin, and the Lord’s wrath, that does not give us the right to live in sin. Because we have freedom from sin, and the Lord’s wrath, that does not mean we can act as unrighteous as we want. We should model ourselves after Christ, who was without sin completely. Christ was free of sin, how did He act? How did Christ live among others? Think like Christ!
With this in mind, Christ did not live life like the sinner. The sinner is in open rebellion against the Lord – living life in his/her own way and not choosing the way of the Lord. Jesus, being free from sin, did not choose to live in open rebellion against the Lord. Jesus did not worship no other gods. Jesus did not pray to any other gods. Jesus was not out there saying there is no God. Jesus was not out there cursing those that lived around Him. Jesus did not have hatred towards those that was not like Him! Jesus did not tell the leper to remove himself from His presence, but entered into the leper’s presence and cured the leper of his leprosy (Mark 1:40-42).
Are we moving about in like manner, Christians? Are we thinking in such a manner? We are abusing the liberty that God has given us through death and resurrection of His only begotten Son. We are abusing the liberty that the Lord has given to us, His children. This is how we abuse our liberty: we commit sin against the Lord without thought – we don’t keep to His way as we should. Look at how the body of Christ, the Church, act nowadays, if you do not believe me.
Paul tells us (v.9) not to let this liberty (rights, freedom) become a stumbling block to others. You see, this is very important and very key to us Christians. We often overlook the word ‘others’ when it is such an important word. Do you realize that we, as Christians, have a responsibility to others (those around us, our neighbor)? I don’t believe we realize that! Jesus said (John 15:17), “these things I command you, that you love one another.” He does not say, “I command you, that you love yourself or only others like you.”
A Christian should not think inwardly – selfishly – only about him/herself. Jesus clearly expresses for us to have compassion for others – think/love of others – be selfless. In other words, because we have freedom from sin we should still have compassion towards those that may not be like us. What we end up doing, however, is taking our liberty and our righteousness and we become that stumbling to others – this includes other Christians as well as non-believers. We think that we should dictate to others our ways and through dictation they will all follow. In our minds, we are not a stumbling block to others because we are moving around under the name of Christ.
Let me tell you something, I have seen a great evil move and masquerade itself around the name of Christ. Men have fought in wars and said that they were doing it all in Christ name. People mask their hatred for others and use Christ’s name for their actions – that ain’t right! Do not be a stumbling block to others, be a lifting block to others! Paul says (v.10), your actions, how you live, will affect those around you. All eyes are on you – believers and non-believers. Don’t believe me? We all end up doing people watching – watching how others act. The sinner, the non-believer, is constantly watching a Christian to see how a Christian is carrying him/herself.
In this verse (v.10), Paul has a warning for the one strong in faith (knowledgeable). He says, “if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be embolden to eat those things offered to idols?” The idea here is that the brother who is strong in faith has caused the one who is weak in faith to stumble (sin) – he prayed to an idol – the act of a sinner. So, we should not be doing something a sinner would do – don’t live like a sinner! We have a consequence to not only ourselves but those around us. When we choose to live like the sinner it will embolden the sinner in their ways.
You have heard me say before – you cannot combat hate with hate. You cannot be a good example for the non-believer by acting just like the non-believer. When you begin to act like the non-believer, guess what they’re going to do? They’re going to call you a hypocrite! When we live like the sinner we will and should be called a sinner. When we start not living like a Christian, we will be called a hypocrite – rightly so. This seems to happen more and more nowadays, doesn’t it?
Jesus called those that believed themselves to be holy, hypocrites, as well. (Matthew 23:24-28) Jesus called both the scribes and the Pharisees hypocrites because on the inside they were full of iniquity (sin).
We cannot be full of iniquity trying to live like Christ. You can try to dress up your outside but who you really are on the inside will eventually come out. There are many so-called Christians who have a lot of anger, and hate, on the inside that we’re starting to see come out. These people are very radical and very extreme in their ways, in their thoughts, and they try to dress up their ideas in the name of Christ! Christ had a heart of love and peace! – not anger, hate, and wrath.
Who you are, in your soul, will eventually shine. Let us, as Christians, truly be like Christ. Let us change our ways. Let us follow in His way. Let us think like Christ. Let us be Christ-like.
To do this we must first move towards love – be concerned/love others. Jesus said again (Luke 6:32, 35-36), love others, including those not like you. Jesus goes on to say that we should love, and even lend, looking for nothing in return. The Lord is kind to the unthankful and even those that are evil. We must remember this, God created all men to be able to live in this world freely – we have liberty in this life. Everybody has the right, the liberty, to choose how they want to live – whether you agree or disagree with their choices. We must learn to respect how others choose to live.
Let us remember the golden rule (Luke 6:31): do unto others what you would want them to do unto you! Lastly, we should keep in mind what the Apostle Paul said (Romans 12:18), “live peaceably with all men. One of the fruits of a Christian is his/her peace with others. Peace cannot dwell in a place where hatred dwells. If we can keep these ways, nobody will call us a hypocrite. Why? Because we will truly be thinking and living like Christ.