Item number two on your list of hot topics: leftovers from pagan temple offerings – to eat or not to eat?
We all put such a high premium on philosophical discernment and theological understanding when it comes to such issues, don’t we? But typically all that does is make us hot windbags with overinflated egos! It’s love that gets us to the ground floor of this or any issue and then takes us where we need to go. So if you think you’re at the head of the class in this whole “I know” business, do everyone a favor and move to the back of the class because you’re flunking in the attitude department and you don’t know anything yet (at least not the way you should!). And you who are quietly, lovingly serving at the back of the class, move up to the front row because you’re on God’s honor roll – and that’s the only one that matters.
So now that we have our priorities straight, let’s move on to this whole business of eating leftovers from pagan sacrifices. What do we know?
(1) No idol in the world amounts to anything (it’s just a piece of wood or stone!), and
(2) There’s no God but One. End of story.
Yes our religious world is rife with tales and images of gods and goddesses, and our political and popular scene has plenty of human “idols” to go around too! All kinds of “gods” and all kinds of “lords” – take your pick! But for us there is only one choice: the one God, the Father – the Source of everything and everyone, and our very reason for being! – and one Lord large and in charge of everything – Jesus, the Chosen One, the Anointed Prophet/Priest/King – the Divine Hand in all creation, the Divine Hand forming, unfolding our very being.
Here’s the problem: We’re not all on the same page! For some people those empty idols cast a very long shadow indeed. It’s hard for them to see past the wood and stone faces, and so when they see the food, they sense the face, and even though their mind says it’s just a side of ribs, their heart keeps seeing the idol and they feel morally and spiritually compromised.
And here we sit on the other side of the table wondering, “What’s the problem?” Eating ribs isn’t going to affect our relationship with God one way or the other! This is silly! If we don’t eat we’re not missing out on some deep “God encounter” and if we do we’re not suddenly “enlightened” with the visions of God! It’s just a plate of food, people.
Fine. But here’s the heart of the matter: What for you is the ticket to a delectable moment of personal freedom can leave others who haven’t shared your freedom-empowering experiences choking to death on a bone. Don’t. Let. That. Happen.
Imagine this scenario:
There you are, your informed and empowered self sitting in the Idol Café ready to sink your informed teeth into that juicy Idol steak burger because, after all, it’s just a meal! And then passing by outside a fellow believer still struggling with idolatry and thinking about going in sees you pigging out inside and you thereby become his personal tipping point for another headlong fall into an idolatrous lifestyle, your informed liberty becoming the occasion of a brother’s moral ruin – a brother Christ died for as you sit there smacking your lips and wiping your mouth! That might just be food on your plate, but this is a crime against your brother! And when you flaunt your informed freedom like this you turn it into a bully club you then use to beat up on the sensitivities of siblings who aren’t on the same page as you, who don’t understand and aren’t ready to do what you are doing. And know this: when you beat on them, you’re beating on Christ – if you think you’re honoring your enlightened Savior with your informed faith, you’re not, you’re violating him by what you’re doing to them.
Conclusion: If what’s for dinner is tripping up my brother and throwing his spiritual life into reverse, it’s not another bite of meat for me until kingdom come! Never will I be the occasion of another’s headlong fall from God’s mercies. Never.