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In today’s Bible reading, Paul talks about the importance of not causing an offense for other people, especially weaker brothers and sisters in Christ.

Paul refers to a “law of love” by which Believers should live our lives. Basically, the law of love is a principle of humility, always being on the lookout for others who might stumble because of something we do. Now, I don’t think Paul says that we should always be looking over our shoulder, afraid to do anything because someone may be looking over our shoulder at us. This can easily turn into spiritual paranoia.

Spiritual paranoia can easily lead to spiritual bondage and legalism. In Galatians 5:1, Paul says that we have been set free. He adds that we should take a stand and never submit to a yoke of slavery. Paul makes this statement in the context of addressing the issue of the Judaisers in the Galatian Church who said that if you want to be a good Christian, you have to be a good Jew, including — and especially — circumcision. He could not have been more clear on the issue: the Judaisers are wrong. His statements were echoed by the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15.

The context of today’s reading is that Believers know that idols are nothing to worry about. We aren’t to sacrifice to them, nor are we to be afraid of the gods they represent. But the problem in Paul’s day is that new converts from polytheism (the belief of many gods) to Christianity don’t understand that we (and they) are no longer bound to idolatry. But because they are new converts, they may be confused by our knowledge. For instance, if one of these new converts sees a Christian leader eating meat that has been sacrificed to an idol, he/she may think that by eating this meat, we are endorsing idolatry, and go back to offering sacrifices to the idol.

This is Paul’s textbook definition of “causing an offense”. Causing an offense is to put something in someone’s path that sets them up to stumble into sin. And believers are to be very careful to not contribute to anyone’s falling into sin. Paul said that if eating meat were to cause a new believer to fall into sin, he’d become a vegan.

Application

Paul’s emphasis isn’t to drive a mature believer to spiritual paranoia. Instead, we should live with a humble attitude, intent to not be a stumbling block for weaker believers and new converts. Hopefully, this could be a teachable moment for those easily-offended and easily tripped up by sin.

Although we don’t see as much (blatant) idolatry in Western Christianity, we still deal with idolatry and idolatrous inclinations. How can you guard against idolatry and idolatrous inclinations in your life? And how can you help others — who still struggle with idolatrous inclinations — to live in Christ-centered freedom?

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