Love Over Knowledge

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2 Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; 3 but anyone who loves God is known by him.

4 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.” 5 Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords— 6 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.

7 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. 8 “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. 9 But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 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? 11 So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed. 12 But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall.

Sermon Love Over Knowledge

Good morning. I absolutely love the first verse of our reading this morning from the Apostle Paul: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” It’s one of those statements from scripture that applies to so many different things in our lives. It’s the reason I chose this reading.

I have to admit, a passage that begins with the phrase, “Now concerning food sacrificed to idols…” sounds a little bit weird in the year 2021. Have any of you been served food that was sacrificed to an idol? I’m guessing that most of you have never had to wrestle with this question. But this text isn’t really about animal sacrifices and what kind of food is acceptable. It’s about love and community.

Paul wrote this letter to the congregation at Corinth because it was on the verge of being torn apart by conflict. The letter addresses a number of different conflicts among the congregation. In this case, there was a division between the newer converts to Christianity and those who had been part of the community of faith for a longer time.

In verses 8-11, Paul talks about “weak believers,” or those with a “weak conscience.” This isn’t a condemnation. Paul is simply identifying those believers who were raised in pagan traditions, and have only recently set aside their loyalties to all of the different gods and goddesses of the Greco-Roman world.

Paul’s primary audience is the established members of the congregation, who probably saw themselves as faithful Jews, and who also happened to believe that Jesus was the Messiah.

There would have been small Jewish communities in all of the major cities and towns of the Roman Empire. The members of these communities were merchants and tradespeople who had set up shop in what is now Lebanon, Syria, Greece, Italy, Egypt, Turkey, and many other places.

These Jewish communities were surrounded by cultures that worshiped many, many