Protect the Weaker Brother

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today’s reading is taken from Paul’s first epistle to the Church at Corinth. In this eighth chapter, Paul addresses concerns about food offered up to idols, and how to deal with issues that might concern those struggling to understand the faith which we possess.

Reading: I Corinthians 8

Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.

How many of us make claim to some form of knowledge, and feel proud of our insight and wisdom? This pride, as with most pride, builds up the ego while providing little of value to others.

Charity – the application of knowledge to help others – serves us all better. Rather than being proud of ourselves and our great intellect, it is better to put that knowledge into use.

And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.

This reflects Socrates’s reflection on his own wisdom – he did not know much, but he was fully aware of what he did not know. According to the Oracle at Delphi, this made him the wisest man in all of Greece. Unfortunately, a cursory reading of Plato’s records suggests that Socrates let this supremacy go to his head at times.

But if any man love God, the same is known of him.

Surely it is better to be known as a God-fearing man, who does good and shuns evil, than a man who knows all things. The second is isolated on his mountain of knowledge, while the first is both admired in this world and the next.

As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.

For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,)

But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

What is an idol? We know that no spiritual creature can compare to the Lord, and we know also that many idols honor no spirit – they serve only to pacify the need for God in the minds and hearts of those who are yet dead.

Nothing sacrificed in the name of an idol can be tainted, because the idol possesses no power. Further, even if the sacrifice is in honor of a real spirit, that spirit cannot possibly surpass the might and glory of the One God, the Father. And if the sacrifice is in honor of some lord, that lord cannot compare the the Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, we need not consider such things when we receive food, shelter, or services.

Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.

Not everyone is prepared to understand and receive that truth. This is particularly true of those young in faith – for they have lived long in the shadow of death, and fear its touch. As they grow, they are brought to the realization that the Life which is in Christ is beyond all powers of death and darkness.

But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.

God doesn’t care if you eat food blessed by a Rabbi, a priest, a Cthulhu cultist, or no one. He doesn’t care if you receive charity from a fellow Christian or from a Pagan. His presence nullifies any perceived negative spiritual consequences of such matters.

But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.

It is best that we take consideration for the needs of our weaker brethren, as a big brother watches out for his younger siblings. As much as it depends on us, we should help each other to grow in the faith, not allow each other to wallow in confusion and doubt.

10 For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols;

11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?

This principle – that of preserving the brother from encountering that which might confuse him – is especially important in matters we have not yet considered.

Many books now exist speaking about guardian angels and communing with such spirits. We know that the angels which the Lord sends among us will be known, and their messages will be received, for that is their purpose among us. Further, when the Lord sends angels to protect us, we know that their tasks will be fulfilled in accordance with His will. The praise belongs to the Lord, with whom we may speak freely and without restraint, but these books teach prayers to the angels. It is imperative that we protect our brethren from such manipulative doctrines, which may well lead them astray.

I own several texts on witchcraft and wicca, and I was for a time a practitioner of such teachings. This was neither good nor correct, and for a long time I had to resist anything that had a connection to such pagan teachings. I was the weaker brother – it was important that I not even pray silently, so that I could be certain that I was not embracing a pagan trance.

And, while on the subject of prayer and meditation, these things are good and beneficial for the stronger brethren among us. However, if the weaker brother connects meditation to practices and teachings such as Hindu Yoga, we should refrain from talking about such things near him, so that he does not fall into bad teachings.

Suffice it to say, this principle applies to any number of things.

12 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.

13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

It may seem a bit extreme, but Paul was willing to refrain from anything that might cause internal conflict among his brethren. If they were concerned about meat being blessed by a pagan ritual, Paul would eat no meat (which, I assume, he quite enjoyed otherwise).

Let us Pray

Mighty God, who is like you among the heavens? With a word, you lay the mountains low and cause the seas to stir. And, with a word, you calm the storms and heal the sick. Truly you are the One God, the Father Almighty.

And blessed is the Lord Jesus Christ, who being of one substance with the Father, took up the form of a servant, and humbled himself unto death upon the cross. To our Lord be all praise and glory, for his is the Name above all names.

As you sanctify us by the Word and the Holy Spirit, we come to understand many things that were formerly mysteries to us. However, we know that many of our brothers struggle, as the Spirit has yet to reveal these things to them. Teach us and guide us so that we may not cause any of our brothers to stumble – rather, help us to minister to their needs, so that they too might come to a fuller understanding of the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

We ask these things of you, the Father, by the blood of the Son which has redeemed us, and by the Holy Spirit who abides with us and teaches us all things.

Amen.

 

May the Lord preserve you in the Faith which you have received, and may you dwell in the richness of his presence now and forever.

Amen.

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