love is about helping others

Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by him.

Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “no idol in the world really exists,” and that “there is no God but one.” Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. “Food will not bring us close to God.” We are no worse off if we do not eat and no better off if we do. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols? So by your knowledge the weak brother or sister for whom Christ died is destroyed. But when you thus sin against brothers and sisters and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never again eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall.

1 Corinthians 8:1-13; NRSVue

In the Hebrew Bible God is superior to all other gods. But we learn in the New Testament that in actuality that there is no other god but God. However not everyone readily understood or received that. Those who did could easily look down on those who didn’t. Paul makes it clear that while love does not mean setting aside knowledge, to love means that we temper what we do with that knowledge.

Knowledge can be weaponized to put people in order. That can result in the loss of faith by those who are not ready for the change and perhaps never will be. Paul in his writings seems to try to point out that those who are weak in their faith in that they don’t accept the changes that have come in Christ, but remain scrupulous to Jewish laws and tradition, should accept the fact that others who have faith in Christ but abide by none of that are completely accepted by God. With the obvious implication that they too no longer have to abide by such customs.

Love is central in how we navigate everything. We don’t set aside knowledge for the sake of love. But we act with that knowledge only in accordance with love. Our goal is to help others and if that means we curtail both what we do and say, then sobeit. At the same time the weak are told not to judge the strong, not to look down on them. Which is another important theme in Paul’s letters. Recent work on Romans sees that as major in that letter.

We may think we know better on this and that. But how will that help others who think differently? While we won’t agree with them, the goal must always be kept in view. It is to love in a way that will help others come to see and understand all the truth of the good news in Jesus.