“But if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.” (1 Corinthians 8:3)
We have no record of it, but from the context we can mostly re-construct one of the questions the Corinthians sent to Paul: “What should we do about eating food offered to idols? Some are saying that as Christians, we have a knowledge that idols are nothing, so it really doesn’t matter. Some are saying that it’s just wrong to eat food offered to idols, and it bothers them when they see other church members doing this. Some of them have said that they were pressured into eating meat offered to idols, and now they feel guilty for it. What should we do about this?”
For Paul the resolution involved looking at the tension between knowledge and love. Faith in Christ brings salvation and thus freedom from the bondage of sin. We are set free to live, to walk with Christ. With this freedom comes a liberating knowledge also, a knowledge that the Lord is God. There is no other. Thus, an idol is nothing but a piece of wood or stone or metal.
The problem comes when some folks reach this level of knowledge while others are not there yet. The problem is two-fold. This knowledge can lead to pride in those who have reached that point, and this pride can then come to dominate them. Then, the exercise of one person’s knowledge can become offensive to someone who believes differently, that it’s wrong to eat food that is dedicated to an idol, for example, with the result that fellowship is adversely affected. If someone who believes it is wrong to eat such meat eats it at the urging of someone who is “knowledgeable,” it can result in guilt and possibly even a turning away from the Lord. Knowledge can thus become destructive.
The resolution to this problem is love, God’s kind of love, the kind that seeks the good of the other person. Paul says that those who have “knowledge” must allow love to supersede that knowledge. The priority is love and relationships over knowledge. Love does not change someone’s understanding or knowledge. It only changes behavior. It leads to behaviors that build up rather than torn down.
Lord, Help us to live a life of love and at the same time to grow deeper and deeper in our knowledge of You. Amen.